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Jun. 30—LAKE MILLS — The work of two men in Lake Mills, combined with the reach of social media, have helped connect military papers for a soldier killed in World War II with the soldier's living family in the area.
Bill Clark said he likes to buy historical memorabilia and one day walked into Midwest Antiques in Albert Lea.
Part-owner Patti Floyd said about 20 minutes before Clark came into the shop, she had laid a few historical military documents from World War II under the top glass of one of the cases at the shop. The papers, which included a Purple Heart certificate for soldier Harold D. Frazier, had been rolled up in a paper tube and brought in by one of the store's pickers, who finds various items to sell. She was not sure where the picker had found them.
Clark said he decided to buy the documents, and then he set out on a mission to find living family members they might belong to. He got ahold of his friend, Leon Christianson, who posted about the papers on Facebook and asked all of his friends to share the post.
The post went from coast to coast, and before long, Linda Waalkens, who lives north of Albert Lea, said she started receiving a few messages from friends asking her if she was somehow tied to Frazier.
Waalkens said she learned from a young age from her father, Elmo Frazier, that she had a special uncle who had been in the Army and fought in World War II. That uncle, Harold Frazier, ultimately died in Normandy on D-Day — June 6, 1944. She had not always known he had received a Purple Heart.
"It's finally home — it's where it belongs," Clark said of the documents after presenting them to Waalkens.
The presentation took place at the Lake Mills veterans memorial, which recognizes 1,200 veterans, as well as those from the Lake Mills area who died in action.
One hundred 30 flags fill the park with a sea of red, white and blue, and at the center is a Freedom Rock, in which an artist has painted four different scenes.
Clark pointed out a phrase on the rock, "He's not heavy, he's my brother," and said the same was true for finding the family for the papers in Frazier's honor.
Waalkens said she and Clark had talked about the part God played in helping them connect.
"I really believe this was meant to be," she said, noting that it was still a little surreal for her.
She said she is at a season now in her life where she can reflect more on her family history and she has learned the importance of doing so from this experience.
She said she has spoken with her and her husband's two sons about their relative.
She has begun delving more into the boxes left behind by her father, in which she found the belongings of her uncle.
She is proud now that in addition to the Purple Heart medal that is in one of the boxes, she now has the paperwork that goes with that award.
"It means more than I can really articulate in words," she said.