- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - A Missouri man has turned a new corner in his pursuit of the relatives of a local Purple Heart recipient.

After sharing his story in The Herald-Dispatch on Jan. 9, Don Crigger, 74, of St. Joseph, Missouri, said he received about 14 phone calls from local residents as well as representatives of a national organization that helps people connect missing or lost Purple Heart medals to their owners.

One of those calls, Crigger said, provided a lead that could have him just one phone call away from talking to the daughter of World War II Army veteran Pete Cole, of Huntington, whose Purple Heart came into the possession of one of Crigger’s friends nearly 20 years ago.

On Thursday, Crigger said he had been in touch with Maxine Cole, of Dunbar, West Virginia, who is the sister-in-law of Pete Cole.

Crigger said he’s learned that Pete Cole survived World War II and died in 1970, and he’s learned Pete had a daughter, Patricia Cole, who since has married and doesn’t go by her maiden name.

“Now, there’s this big hunt for her, and I don’t even think she knows it,” Crigger said. “She would be the legal next-of-kin to Pete Cole, and she’s the one it should go to if she wants it.”

Crigger said it looks like Patricia Cole was born in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Crigger said Maxine Cole told him she thinks the former Patricia Cole lives in or near Lima, Ohio, but that it’s been a long time since the two women talked. Maxine Cole and her daughter plan to look through some of their family records this weekend to see if they can find what Patricia Cole’s married name is, Crigger said.

He also credited a representative of Purple Hearts Reunited who reached out to him after reading The Herald-Dispatch article.

It was through the organization’s help that Crigger was able to verify that the Coles he was talking to were the Coles related to Pete Cole.

He’s also been in touch with a company called Medals of America, which is helping him restore the ribbon on Pete Cole’s Purple Heart medal as well as providing him with a case to store it in.

Crigger, 74, said his friend, Jenny, a retired school teacher and whose last name he didn’t want to give, found the medal in a box of antique photo frames she purchased from an antique store in Savannah, Missouri, about 20 years ago.

A few years later, as she began using the frames, she found the medal. Jenny recently was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she is fixated on making sure the medal returns to its rightful owner, Crigger said.

Crigger, who also is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who fought in Vietnam, used his own military knowledge to track down Cole’s military service number, which showed him that Cole was born in Huntington on Oct. 1, 1922.

The service number also revealed Cole enlisted in the U.S. Army on his 20th birthday on Oct. 1, 1942, in Huntington. At the time of his enlistment, Cole reported he was not married, had no children and had completed one year of high school.

Anyone with information about Patricia Cole’s married name or how to get in touch with her can contact Crigger by calling 816-261-4062.

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Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com

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