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World War II medals returned to veteran

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FRANKFORT, KY. — A Kentucky family has regained possession of a batch of medals earned by their forebear during World War II after thinking the honors were lost to history.

State treasury officials returned the medals, pins and other lost valuables Thursday to the family of Lt. Col. Roy H. Owsley, who served in the Marine Corps in the Pacific theater from 1943 to 1945.

The veteran’s son, Bill Owsley, told The Courier-Journal he was “elated, shocked, overwhelmed and kind of amazed” to receive a call from the treasurer’s office in June.

“We just figured they were gone somewhere forever,” Bill Owsley said.

Roy Owsley passed away in 1987, and the honors were kept in a safe deposit box that was lost to the family with the death of his wife, Dorothy, in 2005. It eventually was handed over to the Kentucky state treasury and later linked to the Owsley family through Treasure Finders, an outreach program that aims to return unclaimed property to its proper owners through kytreasury.com.

Friends and family say the medals — along with pins and other lost valuables — are tangible expressions of a life lived in service, on the battlefield, in the halls of government and in the labor of community.

“It’s like we got a little piece of our father back,” Roy Owsley Jr. said. “It’s remarkable.”

Roy Owsley was twice awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptional conduct during service. He also was a major and aide to Gen. Roy Geiger and aboard the Missouri on Sept. 2 1945, when he witnessed the signing of Japan’s surrender.

During a ceremony Thursday in Frankfort, State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach listed a number of the veteran’s successes after returning to civilian life. He worked as Louisville city manager, won the Louisville “Man of the Year” award in 1962 and received the key to the city three times from two mayors.

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