BEDFORD N.Y. -- A Bedford resident and businessman reunited the Purple Heart of a World War II veteran with his family in Florida. The medallion was discovered by his son in a box that had belonged to a pawn shop.
Camillo Santomero, whose family owns a number of retail buildings in the Danbury, Conn. said his son, also named Camillo, discovered the Purple Heart. The younger Santomero, 17 at the time, was assisting his grandfather, who purchased shelving from a pawn shop that was closing. The pawn shop owners asked that he take some boxes along with the shelving.
When going through the boxes, Camillo asked his grandfather about the medal, which had the name “Raymond Ferrer” on it. “My son had no idea what it was,’’ Camillo Santomero said. “My father knew exactly what it was.”
The Santomeros were eager to return the medals to Ferrer’s family, and Camillo's business associate, German Serna, contacted to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, which referred Serna to Purple Hearts Reunited. Santomero is the managing partner of Guard Hill Holdings in Bedford.
PHR was able to locate Ferrer’s granddaughter, Amy (Dalen) Garry, who advised Serna to return the medal to her parents. Her father, Keith Dalen, was raised by Ferrer. After Ferrer’s death in 1992, the Purple Heart had been shuffled between family members, from New York to Connecticut. It is unclear how the medallion ended up in a box at the pawn shop.
The Purple Heart is now safe in the hands of Keith and Ruth Dalen, Ferrer’s direct family members in Estero, Fla.
The entire process of reuniting the Purple Heart with the family took nearly five months, Santomero said.
“We actually found a second one but there was no way to tell who it belonged to,’’ Santomero said. “There’s no way in a million years we thought we’d be able to return it to the family.”
Ferrer was born in April of 1910 in Puerto Rico, and died on Oct. 15, 1992. He served in World War II from April 7, 1941 to Aug. 3, 1954. He was first listed as a prisoner of war on Dec. 20, 1944, and released on May 18, 1945. Ferrer was in Stalag 11B Fallingbostel Prussia (Work Camps) 53-09 in Germany.
In addition to the Purple Heart, SSG Ferrer’s other decorations include a Prisoner of War Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Europe-Africa-Middle-East Service Medal with 1 silver service star (Ardennes, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Central Europe), Marksman Badge with Rifle bar, Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Honorable WWII Service Lapel Button.
“We feel great that is has been returned to the family,’’ Santomero said. “Their father and grandfather served our country and he deserves it.”
The nonprofit foundation Purple Hearts Reunited was created in 2012 by a combat-wounded veteran, and works to return lost or stolen military medals of valor in order to veterans or their families in order to honor their sacrifice to the nation. The organization is funded by donations and has returned medals to well over 100 military families and museums to date.
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