Found in Kenton attic, family reunited with dad’s service uniform, plaque

Times photo/Ty Thaxton

(Above) After being lost 66 years, a suitcase containing the service uniform and an honors plaque of the late Lawrence Eugene “Gene” Burton was given to his daughters Marilyn Holland and Deb Hamilton on Friday at AMVETS Post 1994 in Kenton. Pictured are (from left, front) son-in-law Kenny Hamilton, Deb Hamilton, Marilyn Holland, Post 1994 First Vice Commander Jessica Osborn and Judy Bowen, state auxiliary chaplain/scholarship; (back) grandson Michael Holland holding great-granddaughter Addison Holland, Post 1994 past commander John Murray, Post 1994 third trustee William Renftle, District 12 officer Jim Hord, AMVETS Department of Ohio Provost Marshal Doug Bowen, and LeRoy Osborn, judge advocate of post 1994.

(Below) AMVETS Department of Ohio Provost Marshal Doug Bowen (right) goes over what some of the honor badges represent on the found plaque belonging to the late Lawrence Eugene Burton with Marilyn Holland (left), her son Michael Holland and granddaughter Addison Holland.

In the 19 years since their father’s passing, sisters Marilyn Holland and Deb Hamilton had just assorted pictures to remember him.

That all changed when an anonymous individual in Kenton found an old suitcase in her attic that contained the service uniform of their father, Lawrence Eugene “Gene” Burton of Kenton, as well as a plaque with his service medals from the Korean War.

“We didn’t even know it existed,” Marilyn said.

According to Jessica Osborn, first vice commander at AMVETS Post 1994 in Kenton, the suitcase was found and brought to the post last Friday afternoon by a fellow veteran.

“She was living in Illinois for several years and had moved back to the Kenton area and was cleaning out her attic and found that bag,” Jessica said.

“Being a veteran, she saw the name on it and knew it had to have been military. She opened it up and saw the shirt, the pants and the plaque in here.”

The individual knew the personal effects would have sentimental value for the family members, so she asked if those at the post could try to track down them down.

“Jim Hord (District 12 officer) was here and he looked at it with me and started asking around that afternoon right here at the post,” Jessica said.

“This person knew that person, so we started making phone calls, and I’m glad that we were able to locate some family members.”

The first of the family members to find out was Marilyn’s son, Michael Holland.

“He sends me a text and says, ‘Call me, I’ve got good news,’” Marilyn recalled.

“I was like, ‘Good news?’ I couldn’t even imagine what it would be. When he told me, I was just so surprised, but proud. So proud.”

She then passed on the news to Deb.

For her, that particular day was meaningful in more ways than one, as it was the one month anniversary of the passing of her daughter, Amy Cyrus, who had been battling breast cancer.

“It was kind of like dad was saying ‘I got this, Deb,’” she recalled thinking after learning of the news of the found items.

“To me, it was more of a spiritual thing. I think dad’s saying ‘I’m still around. Here I am.’

“I’ll be 65, so this has been missing for 66 years. So to me, it has a super special meaning,” Deb added.

While known as Larry in the military, their dad was Gene to everyone else.

Not old enough to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War II, Gene lied about his age and successfully enlisted. Not much is known of his time there, his daughters said, as he never shared stories from that time in his life.

He later re-enlisted to serve in the Korean War where he was a sergeant.

While not many war stories are known between Gene’s daughters, Marilyn remembered him talking about being in the foxholes, and Deb recalled an experience he shared about a time when he lost several of his men.

“He was the sergeant, so he was in the lead,” Deb said.

“They were running over a bridge, and he heard a loud noise. He turned around and everybody was gone. They had all been blown up. He was the only one left. He just said, ‘I turned around and they were gone.’”

While Marilyn said her dad was proud of his service, Deb said he was like most guys who come back from the service.

“They just didn’t say a whole lot, wanted to get their lives back to normal, got a job and went back to their life,” Deb said.

After being discharged in January of 1952, Gene got a job at the tank plant in Lima and married Shirley Kindle of Alger in August of that same year.

“He said he was going through on a train in Alger and he saw mom walking down the street and he said, ‘Gosh she’s good looking, I’d like to meet her,’” Deb said.

“I think the first time he met her, he told her, ‘I’m going to marry you someday,’” Marilyn recalled.

Gene passed away on Jan. 22, 1999 at the age of 71.

“I didn’t have anything of dad’s,” Marilyn said.

“I went antique shopping just to get stuff that I knew my dad had – like the lunchbox he always carried. I found one just like it at an antique store.”

With little else to remember him by, that made the finding of his service uniform and honors plaque all the more special.

A heartfelt thanks was given to the anonymous person who found the suitcase, as well as all those involved in tracking down Gene’s family.

“Thank you all for all the phone calls and all the work you did,” Marilyn said.

“It means a lot to have this. We definitely appreciate it. It means more than you can even imagine, it really does.”

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