CLERMONT, Fla. – It took six months, but the owners of A Pawn USA in Lake County were able to reunite the family of Aldene Williams with the military flag used at his funeral in 1970.
"Thank God for this," Williams' daughter, Essie Henderson, said.
Steward's Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Aldene Williams served in the Navy during World War II, before he died in a house fire in Haines City in 1970.
For years, the framed flag stayed perched on the mantle in William's youngest daughter's home. But when she passed away four years ago, the flag and almost everything else in that house got lost.
"Nobody thought it was even missing because we forgot about it," Ernestine Swann, one of Williams' nine children, said.
But in March, a man walked into the pawn shop trying to sell the flag.
"This gentlemen, I asked him, 'How did you end up with it,'" A Pawn USA owner Joshua Barkan said. "He says, 'I go to yard sales every week and I pick up everything I think I can resell.'"
Barkan said he bought the flag with no intention of selling it, and began the long process of tracking down Williams' family.
"It took us until yesterday," he said.
A Pawn USA marketing manager Taryn Bushman said they did everything they could to track down the family.
"Just going through the list and trying to find different avenues, but we kept trying because we really wanted to find his family," Bushman said.
But finally, Barkan and Bushman were able to locate one of Williams' daughters, thanks to a recent obituary and a little luck.
"When the phone rang yesterday, I don't pick up the phone if I don't recognize the number," Swann said. "And I don't know why, but I picked up the phone."
Swann and her sister Essie Henderson picked up the flag, free of charge, at the store the next day.
"I appreciate the research you guys did," she said. "At six months I would've given up. It means a lot because it's a piece of him."
One of Williams' grandchildren, who happens to be still serving as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army, will be taking care of the flag now.