Summerland World War II vet reunited with memento after 73 years
It’s a reunion more than seven decades in the making.
After over seven decades, 96-year-old WWII veteran Charles Bernhardt has been reunited with a bracelet that’ been engraved with his name and regimental number.
“My goodness, after 73 years, it’s back!” he said through an ear-to-ear grin on Friday.
Bernhardt received the bracelet from a sweetheart in London in 1944, but traded it for food while fighting to liberate the Netherlands from Germany the following year.
“We stopped there and they had some eggs, I had no money, but I felt I should give her something,” he said.
It was the family farm of Bernadina Smith.
She never parted with the bracelet, even after she immigrated to the U.S. after the war.
The mystery of who the brave Canadian solider was followed her family for generations.
“She was grateful to have the Canadian soldiers come and help liberate, so that’s what prompted trying to locate Charlie,” said daughter-in-law Karen Smith.
With the help of the internet and even a historian, Bernadina’s grandson finally tracked Bernhardt down.
“It was amazing, it was indescribable,” said Kyle Smith.
The family decided to make the trip to Summerland from Albany, Ore. to return the bracelet in person.
It was an emotional moment for Bernhardt and it brought back a host of memories.
“Just holding it makes me feel, my knees are shaking,” he said.
Through the whole reunion at Bernhardt’s independent living facility on Friday, there was Bernadina, now 83 years old, watching from home through Skype.
“Well it’s about time, 73 years is a long time, but I did feel like he should have that,” said Bernadina Smith.
A tale involving war and romance, stretching across two continents, and seven decades, came full circle.
“Never ever dreaming… the story would bring it to this day,” Bernhardt said.