HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. – A Fishers man has a mission to return a Purple Heart back to the family who it belongs to.
Ron Patterson received the plaque from a friend who got it during an estate sale in Noblesville.
“She found out that I was a veteran and was a paratrooper and she said 'hey, I’ve got something that I know you can help me with',” Patterson explained, “She bought this picture frame at an estate sale and it’s a Purple Heart recipient and she said, 'I got his name and everything, but I just don’t know what to do with it' and I said 'I’d love to take charge of that and try to find the family members'.”
Patterson agreed to help find the family of airborne solider, John L. Oliver.
“We’ll make sure this goes back to the right place and it’s well taken care of,” said Patterson.
He posted about the lost Purple Heart on social media and within moments the search expanded. People from all over Central Indiana are now helping Patterson collect important information to help lead him to Oliver’s family.
“It appears perhaps there aren’t any family members left, but we’d hate to assume that,” Patterson added, “My goal here is that we find some family member that would take this plaque and would cherish it and love it.”
Thanks to the help of friends and social media, Patterson says it appears Oliver was born in Brownsburg and was buried in Pittsboro.
Patterson says, the plaque mentions 1919 to 1944, so he made the assumption that was birth and death dates but turns out Oliver died in 1983 according to an obituary Patterson found.
He's also learned Oliver and his wife were train enthusiasts and were featured in the local paper.
“This gentleman came from the greatest generation,” said Patterson, “He came from the World War II-era, he was a paratrooper and I am a paratrooper, and all paratroopers -- we’re brothers.”
For Patterson, returning the Purple Heart has a much deeper meaning. As a paratrooper himself, this is a personal journey.
One that he won’t stop until the plaque is honored and respected in the right way.
“We try and support the family and the fallen who’ve gone before us. I’ll consider it a failure if I don’t find a home where this Purple Heart will be loved and honored at,” said Patterson.
If Patterson is not able to find any family members, he has plans to donate it to an American Legion so it's honored and respected by people in the community.
If you recognize the Purple Heart recipient or want to help Patterson in his efforts, please e-mail Melissa Crash at MCrash@tribunemedia.com. She will help connect you to who you need to speak with.