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Albany family returns bracelet to World War II veteran after 73 years

The Smith family returned Charles Bernhardt's bracelet to him after 73 years. Photo by Ellen Meny.

ALBANY, Ore.- After 73 years, a world war, and a cross-continental move, an Albany family is returning a bracelet to its original owner.

The Smith family are planning to travel to British Columbia on Friday to give 97-year-old Charles Bernhardt his bracelet, after he traded it to their family for food in 1945.

"I am really looking forward to it, and I was, again, overwhelmed that they wanted to drive up here and give it to me," Bernhardt said.

The Smith family lived in a farmhouse in the Netherlands during the 40s. In 1940, Nazi soldiers occupied their home- and five years later, Allied soldiers freed their home. One of those soldiers was "Chuck" Bernhardt, a Canadian soldier.

Bernhardt wanted some eggs, so he traded his bracelet to the family. As the war ended, Bernhardt left. Even after the Smith family migrated to America, they kept the bracelet- and still had questions about its owner.

"I told people, 'why don't we see if we could find out where he lives', and they never could," Bernadina Smith said. She was a child when Bernhardt visited their farmhome.

The mystery took a turn in July, when Tony Smith, Bernadina's son, asked his son, Kyle Smith, to try and find Bernhardt.

"I challenged my son to see if he could find Charles," Tony said.

"I wasn't really expecting to find much out of it, because after 73 years, what are the chances of finding anything?" Kyle Smith said.

After using the serial number on the bracelet to search him online, and even reaching out to a historian at one point, Kyle found Charles Bernhardt- 97-years-old, and living in British Columbia. Kyle sent him a letter.

"I just mailed it to him, and about eight days later, got a phone call," Kyle said.

That phone call led to memories, conversations, and a decision to visit Bernhardt in British Columbia, to return the bracelet to him. They also plan to give Bernhardt a book of their family history.


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