Sharon Moore had heard the stories about her father getting his duffel bag stolen on his way back from the Korean War. The New Hampshire woman never expected to see any of the contents.
In July, Moore received a Facebook friend request from a stranger in France. She deleted it. But, the person responded with a Facebook message asking for help in finding the owner of a lost wallet. Attached were several black-and-white pictures, including one of her mother as a young woman, and another of her aunt, as well as a tattered Social Security card and Massachusetts driver’s license.
“I immediately saw my dad’s driver’s license and my mother’s photo. I knew it was my dad’s wallet,” Moore said of her father, Robert McCusker, who died a day before her 20th birthday in 1983. “I couldn’t believe it. Really, my dad’s wallet after all these years? It was just weird.”
The brown leather wallet was found in the basement of a building in Chatellerault, France, a small city about 185 miles southwest of Paris. Workers had tossed it out, but the building’s owner, Patrick Caubet, noticed it on a pile of gravel and was drawn to the half-dozen photographs and what looked like official documents.
On closer inspection, he saw a field ration permit dated September 1950 belonging to Cpl. Robert S. McCusker, as well as McCusker’s Social Security card and other military documents.
It was unclear how the wallet ended up in the building, although Moore said Caubet had heard that the building once was a social club for American officers and that officers might also have stayed there.
“The photographs made it very sentimental and personal, and really gave me the desire to find the family they belonged to,” said Caubet, who works in communications for the French military.
“My grandfather and father were also in the war,” he said, adding that his grandfather had been injured by a shell in World War II and his father suffered serious burns in the Algerian War. “I would have loved it if someone had found papers or other things belonging to them and sent them to me.”
Caubet, who was interviewed in French, found a friend who spoke English and together they found an obituary for Moore’s mother, Jean McKenney McCusker, who died in 2014. They went in search of his surviving relatives listed in the obituary, first posting the wallet’s contents on Caubet’s Facebook page. That prompted some replies from friends, including one who surmised that the wallet’s owner was possibly “a soldier who fell in love with a French woman.”
They tried contacting the Pentagon and the U.S. Embassy in Paris, but got nowhere. Then Caubet sought the help of a French military office in Paris, which tracked down the names of McCusker’s children in just days. Caubet found Moore on Facebook last month and shortly after the wallet was headed to Dover, N.H.
“She was so happy to know there was this trace of her father,” Caubet said. “She was almost ready to come to France with her brother to get the wallet. But I told her I could send it. I was so afraid it would get lost in the mail. But it arrived in less than a week. I was so happy.”
When the package arrived, Moore and her brother, Steven McCusker, filmed themselves opening the wallet and emailed the video to Caubet, so he could share in their joy.
For Moore and her relatives, the wallet represents another part of a father who rarely talked about his time at war. He also fought in World War II, forging a birth certificate at the age of 15 and running off to the Merchant Marine. He re-enlisted for the Korean conflict and received a Purple Heart after he was injured in a grenade attack.
Moore gave the wallet to her brother, Steven, who also lives in Dover, because she already has her father’s Purple Heart, his dog tags and the flag from his coffin on display in her home. The family also sent Caubet a gift basket featuring maple syrup from her backyard, some of the candy her father enjoyed and a New England Patriots jersey.
“It’s just amazing. It’s just amazing. To hold something he held every day, there are just no words,” Moore said, adding that her father would have been “floored by the whole story and just thankful and grateful, especially because it was a soldier that helped get it back to us.”