Dale McClure, a volunteer at Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store, is often brought unique items her co-workers believe may have an interesting history behind them. She has a talent for tracking down …
By COLBY DENTON
Dale McClure, a volunteer at Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store, is often brought unique items her co-workers believe may have an interesting history behind them. She has a talent for tracking down the items’ former owners, and one item in particular was recently brought to her attention which had not only an extensive history, but was also linked to nearby descendants.
The item — or items — that were discovered were the military medals of Col. Joseph Peagler.
“When donations come in, they’re sorted, put into bins and we go through them,” McClure said. “This occurred in 2017, and my co-workers bring me stuff they think may have some history to it.”
The medals were in a small box, which was from the colonel to his parents in Oak Ridge. Peagler attended the decommissioning ceremony of a particular ship, and that event’s paperwork was in the box as well.
Starting with a Cleveland search, McClure checked multiple phonebooks for a reference of Peagler, but after calling all listings, turned up no leads. After a quick Google search on her phone, she was able to locate someone with the surname of Peagler who lived in Chattanooga; unfortunately, this number was disconnected. A wide search of Tennessee, as well as one of Oak Ridge specifically, turned up similar results.
It wasn’t until McClure tried a search on Facebook typing “Colonel Joseph Peagler,” that she found a clue. The search led her to a niece of the colonel, who was thanking her uncles, including Peagler, for their military service. This niece and her husband owned an art studio in Raleigh, North Carolina, which McClure contacted.
“His niece said, ‘This is crazy,’ and I told her that I wanted to get the medals back to him or to his family,” McClure said. “She said Col. Peagler had died in a motorcycle accident in Chattanooga, but that she’d be seeing his family over Christmas and would be happy to give the medals to them then.”
After sending the box to Peagler’s niece, McClure uncovered another Peagler family object, a large, white family Bible. By that point, McClure had met the colonel’s son through email, Zach Peagler, an attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, who thanked her for the medals. Zach’s son, Joseph, who at the time was about 4 years old, received the medals to keep as a memorial for his grandfather. Based on the pictures McClure received, Peagler’s grandson was overjoyed to receive the medals and was excited to wear them, just like his grandfather had.
McClure said Zach seemed thrilled to hear from her, but young Joseph was even more ecstatic. Despite the excellent responses, she has never met any of the family and only spoke with Peagler’s niece on the phone. Aside from that, her only correspondence with the Peaglers has been through email.
Aside from the Peaglers, McClure said she has also had success with other residents. At one point, she discovered a sketch of the Rev. Littlefield, the renowned pastor from Cleveland, along with an accompanying frame. Upon further investigation, she realized that Littlefield is the grandfather of Cleveland’s own Steve Hartline. Following this revelation, she turned over the image to Hartline, much to his surprise.
Always finding new treasures with intricate backstories, McClure said her work is never done.
“I have two family Bibles on my desk right now that I need to find the owners of,” McClure added.
When not volunteering at Habitat, McClure goes to the YMCA Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She also enjoys painting, and even does the artwork for the Re-Store.
“I’m not giving this up now. It’s so rewarding. I’m hooked!” McClure exclaimed.
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