The Purple Heart awarded to Staff Sgt. Kendall L. Morrow after his plane crashed into the water on a bombing mission during World War II was restored to his family Monday. Already, the niece who received the medal on his behalf has bigger plans for it.
However, the letters discovered in a box with the medal are something Nancy Cederman plans to keep. They are a personal connection to the hero she never knew.
Before Monday’s ceremony with the Patriot Guard Riders at Iron Island Museum in Buffalo’s Lovejoy section, Cederman said she also has found out that there is an 8th Army Museum in Savannah, Ga., that may be interested in the medal and that West Point also accepts them. Either would be appropriate for the medal’s safekeeping, she said.
She doesn’t want it lost again.
A man found Morrow’s Purple Heart in a box of personal items and letters left in an apartment storage unit in Rochester by a previous tenant. He told his family about it, and his sister, Kristin Hamilton of Broomall, Pa., tried to find someone linked to the items.
Using information from an informal family tree included in the papers, Hamilton saw a news article earlier this year about another lost Purple Heart. It was returned to a family with the help of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle club’s Veteran Recovery Program.
Linda Hastreiter, Region 1 coordinator for the club, used social media to track down Cederman and organized this week’s event, complete with military honor guard and a full complement of Patriot Guard members, including two who received Purple Hearts for service in Vietnam.
“This came as a total surprise,” Cederman said of getting Hastreiter’s call. “My uncle was the oldest of four, and the only boy.”
Her mother, Orma, was the oldest girl in the family, she said, but the middle daughter, Avril, kept her brother’s memory alive.
“She was the one who would tell us stories about Uncle Kendall,” Cederman said. “She never got over her brother’s death. She would have loved this; it would have meant so much to her.”
In the box with the medal were two neatly tied bundles of letters, written by Morrow and his wife, Florence Nestell Morrow, of East Aurora. Cederman said “Aunt Flo,” who remarried after the war, died 10 to 15 years ago.
The timing of the ceremony closely coincided with the 70th anniversary of Morrow’s death. He was killed in action Dec. 11, 1943, while serving with the Army Air Forces in Europe. His niece said she was told he volunteered for the bombing raid that day, with the port city of Emden, Germany, as the target, according to a database for his bomber group.
He was 28, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Canada, and a Snyder resident. He was just starting his second year of service with the 351st Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group, known as “The Bloody Hundredth” for its high casualty rate.
Morrow’s body was never found. His name is engraved on the Tablet of the Missing in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Limburg, Netherlands. He never saw his daughter, born six months before his plane went down.
Two or three of the letters in the box were never opened, she said. She has not decided whether to leave them sealed.