A group of metal detecting enthusiasts were over the moon last spring when they uncovered a nurse’s medal in an old farm field in Chilliwack.
Now they are hoping to put that piece of history from almost a century ago back into the hands of a surviving family member who still lives in Chilliwack.
Brandon Kuczynski of Langley, along with fiancée Bailey Andrichuk, and friend Brad Cappon of Chilliwack are The Dirt Hounds, a trio of metal detecting enthusiasts.
The group is hoping to soon meet up with Lois Maurer, 95, of Chilliwack, who is the niece of Carolyn Whittle, the medal recipient.
The three managed to dig up the metal disc in an old field, between two agricultural properties in Chilliwack last summer.
When it first came out of the dirt it looked like an old coin.
“I had no idea what it was at first,” Kuczynksi said. “I’d never seen anything like it.”
It was buried deep, probably a foot under the ground.
He’s only been at metal detecting for a couple of years, but says he has become thoroughly hooked with the outdoor hobby, and the artifacts that can sometimes come out of the dirt.
“It’s addicting especially when you find cool stuff like this.”
Handing over the long-lost keepsake to a family member was the group’s fondest hope with this historic artifact they unearthed. The family has since decided to donate the medal to the Chilliwack Museum for safekeeping, but they are still planning a distanced meeting for posterity.
It all started last April, when Kuczynski and the other Dirt Hounds were metal detecting in a farm field in Chilliwack. At one point the equipment started beeping faster as they dug down deeply to see what set it off.
In the past they have located lost gold rings, cellphones, and survey pins – but this was different.
The image of King George could be made out on one side, with a figure on horseback on on the other. The medal was a type of honour bestowed on volunteer nurses who served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment overseas, in the First World War.
These were volunteers who provided nursing care to convalescing soldiers. The name engraved on the side: C. Whittle.
“If the medal had been for someone fighting in the war, it would have had a regiment number on it,” he said.
When he looked up “C. Whittle” there were 500 people to search under that name.
That’s where ancestry researcher Marion Robinson comes in. The Mission resident contacted Kuczynski after hearing about the medal discovery on a television newscast.
She was intrigued to learn that they were looking for Whittle’s descendants, and her work managed to lead them to the right one.
It turns out the “C. Whittle” engraved on the medal stood for Carolyn Whittle, who was known as Carrie in her early life, according to Robinson’s research. According to the 1911 census, she lived with her mother and stepfather on Camp Slough Road, which is now known as Camp River Road. Robinson even tracked down her Chilliwack descendant in this case, as she has for many families.
She also found out that Carrie’s sister, Laura Whittle, married a Mr. Bessette of Chilliwack.
The records Robinson dug up show that Carrie Whittle went to the Virgin Islands from 1920 to 1929 to serve as Mother Noel Juanita in the Order of St Augustine. She went on by serving humanity and ended up running a major hospital in Colorado.
What drives Robinson to undertake these research projects, and reach out to help families this way?
“I do it because it is helpful to return the medal to the family and to contribute my ability to find people,” Robinson said. “I have provided numerous local families with an extended family tree that brings me into a deeper understanding of local history. There is so much to tell.”
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