Laura Hardy says she and her husband were browsing in their local Goodwill in Mesa, Ariz., over the weekend when her husband spotted something unusual in the jewelry section: a Purple Heart medal with the name Eual H. Whiteman on it. "It was just classified as purple jewelry for $4.99," Hardy tells ABC News. "They just rang it up … no comment from the people at the register or anywhere." Hardy, whose own grandfather was awarded a Purple Heart, knew she had to find the medal's owner, so she posted a photo of her find on Facebook, noting "what a shame" it was to find it discarded at Goodwill. The photo was shared more than 90,000 times, and on Tuesday, Hardy got a call from Tina Cook, who manages a Facebook group that helps veterans find other veterans. Cook put her sleuthing skills to work, and with the help of a genealogy site and newspaper archives, she found Whiteman's only known living relative in Missouri: his ex-sister-in-law, Phyllis Lawson.
Lawson hadn't known Whiteman well (she had married and divorced his much younger brother, and the two siblings barely saw each other) and was surprised to hear about the Purple Heart, which is now being sent to her. As for Whiteman, he died in 1991 at the age of 69 with no known family left and is buried in Portland, Ore., per KATU. Hardy tells Fox59 she found out the medal ended up in a donated box of items that had belonged to Whiteman's nephew. A rep for Goodwill of Central Arizona tells ABC that the medal's sale was "unfortunate"—employees are to put aside any items that may be of significance—and that Goodwill would like to give Hardy her five bucks back. Meanwhile, reps for the cemetery where Whiteman is buried say they'll add the Purple Heart marker to his grave pending confirmation, KATU reports. (Also in Arizona: a Purple Heart found at a flea market.)