It started with box of vintage WWII portraits found by American Legion Post 47 Commander Ruth Cook.
She wanted to reunite the photos with their families and decided to publish a few in the Ravalli Republic to see if anyone recognized the faces from long ago.
This week the vintage photo that ran in the Ravalli Republic on March 31 was identified as twins Frank and Tom Stanford. Frank was the father of Wayne Stanford who retired from 39 years in education at Lone Rock School and lives in the Bitterroot Valley.
“You don’t get much more local than that,” Cook said. “He didn’t see the newspaper but Helen Eden recognized the photo and called me. She said she wasn’t related but that the photo was of twins and their relatives are in the valley.”
Wayne Stanford said the photo is just like the one in his family album.
“It is my dad, Frank, on the left and his twin brother, Tom,” Stanford said. “Helen saw it in the paper and called us. She has been a friend of the family for years so she recognized dad.”
Stanford said he thought the photo was taken right after the brothers graduated from boot camp. They then served on the battleship Pennsylvania after Pearl Harbor.
“The Pennsylvania was dry-docked during Pearl Harbor and received a minimum amount of damage,” he said. “The twins served until the end of the war in the South Pacific, Midway and Guadalcanal. It was interesting that the ship never received a hit the whole time until right after the war was declared over and they were torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on their way home to the United States.”
Frank Stanford passed away in 2013.
“And my uncle passed away three months before he did,” Wayne Stanford said. “Both of them were born and raised right here in the Bitterroot Valley. They grew up with woods and sawmills.”
Wayne Stanford said he also didn’t get far from home.
“I went to school in Hamilton, graduated from Hamilton High School, went to college and just finished 10 years of retirement,” he said.
On Wednesday, Frank Stanford’s brother-in-law Jim Roth, Frank Stanford’s son Wayne and Wayne’s wife Karin, and local history buffs Jack and Helen Eden sat down with Cook and the box to see if there were additional photographs they could identify.
Jim Roth brought had an “American Legion 50th Anniversary Jim Beam bottle of whisky” and gave it to the post. This is the centennial year for the post that was established Dec. 13, 1919.
“That whisky was from a half a century ago,” Cook said.
Helen Eden, retired librarian from the Corvallis Middle School in 2013, said she wonders about the box.
“Why were these photos collected,” she asked. “Maybe they were gathered by the American Legion right after WWII. My parents moved to Hamilton in 1947 and they were in the military, but I’m not getting any clues.”
The group recognized a few of the photos, knew a few more of the names written on the back and current relatives in the valley but the quest continues to unite more of the vintage WWII portraits with the next generation.
Watch weekly in the Ravalli Republic.