Family receives Purple Heart Medal after decades - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Family receives Purple Heart Medal after decades

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CULLMAN COUNTY - AL -

Willie Freeman Butts goes back down memory lane, but this story isn't about Willie, it's about Alabama native, Toulman Freeman. Willie says Toulman passed away in 1944; he died in Europe in World War II. On Saturday, Willie Freeman received her brother's Purple Heart Medal.

Jacqueline Carter with Robertsdale Healthcare Center says, "It's heart touching, it's a love story." She says a staff member at the nursing home found the damaged Purple Heart Medal in an old dryer machine. Carter says, "She did not know who the owner of the heart was and it kind of stayed on the shelf for several years."

Freeman's last name was engraved on the medal, his wife Estelle Freeman got remarried and changed her last name to Estelle Clayton, leaving it hard for people to find out who this medal belonged to.

Carter says, "We actually started doing a little bit more research in our files and found that  her middle name was freeman at that point in time, so she had remarried a Clayton and she actually kept the heart all those years and they were actually with her when she passed away."

Members of the family say Toulman and Estelle grew up together, fell in love and got married, but unfortunately he was sent off to war, and he didn't make it home. Even though she got remarried, she kept the Purple Heart with her, probably in her pocket, and that might have been how it ended up in the dryer.

Staff members at the nursing home got in contact with the military order of Purple Heart.

Zacharih Fike is a Captain National Guard in Vermont he says, "Through my research, I was able to locate misses butts here in Alabama."

And as Willie continues to reminisce of the love she had with her younger brother. This medal is a new memory this 91 year old will never forget. Toulman Freeman's body was buried at Bethany Baptist Church in Cullman County, the same church where the ceremony was held today.