Purple Heart returned to family

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Ronald Smullin

Ronald Smullin of Monette and Nancy Stofferahn of Minnesota have never met but they have formed a strong bond. The bond was formed through the appreciation for the determination Smullin had to find the rightful home of a World War II Purple Heart medal with the name of Claude E. King engraved.

Smullin said a friend of his from Trumann found the medal at a yard sale. He purchased it and thought it might be gold.

"It turned out it did not have much money value but I knew it had a sentimental value to someone somewhere," Smullin said.

Purple heart returned to family.

Smullin's friend gave him the medal and with a goal in mind to find the owner, he began his search. Also in the box with the medal was an old military photograph of Claude and his company from World War II. The box, the medal and all were in great condition.

Smullin started his search for Mr. King on the internet.

"I found several Clyde Kings but no Claude," Smullin said. "Then I went to the VFW for their help and I came up with his wife's name and number. She is in a retirement home and I did talk to her on the phone about the medal. I told her nurse if she had any children to tell them what I had found and give them my telephone number. Just in a couple of days I received a call from Nancy, Claude's stepdaughter, in Minnesota. She wanted to know what I wanted for the medal and I told her I was not trying to sell it, I just wanted to get it back to his family."

Smullin was excited to find the family of the man who had served his country and received the Purple Heart. He sent it on to Minnesota where it belonged.

"We always knew there was a Purple Heart, but we had no idea what had ever became of it," Ms. Stofferahn said. "It is an unusual gift and a wonderful one. We were amazed anyone would care enough to go to that much trouble to find the recipient of the medal. Through Mr. Smullin's perseverance and the help of the VFW they did find my mother."

Claude's widow is Joan King.

"Actually, my father and my stepfather served together in the military," Stofferahn said. Claude was with the Rangers and my dad, Walter Spaulving, was a medic. My mother and Claude were married for 34 years. He passed away in 2007."

Everyone in the family has seen the Purple Heart. It has proven to be a special gift to the four siblings.

"Claude's sister has helped us put the pieces together," Stofferahn said. "We are all from the same county in Minnesota but years ago Claude did live briefly in Arkansas. We appreciate the fact that Ronald really went out of his way to get the medal to us."

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