Editor’s Note: The Laker/Lutz News published a Knowing Your History column on Dec. 14 seeking information about the owner of a Purple Heart that had been in storage at the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village’s history center. It turns out, we failed to seek information at perhaps the most obvious place. Here is a follow-up to that column.
A column published in The Laker/Lutz News on Dec. 14 sought to track down more information about the owner of a Purple Heart medal in storage in the history center at The Pioneer Florida Museum & Village.
It turns out that our reporting would have benefited from starting with the museum’s staff.
After our column published, Andy Warrener, associate curator at the museum, reached out to provide additional information about the medal.
The Purple Heart was donated in 1994, according to Warrener.
It belonged to James Wayman Vanden, not James W. Varden, as our original column reported.
Warrener said the back of the metal was clearly stamped James W. Vanden, but allowed that in his experience of doing this type of research, t’s can look like l’s and r’s can look like n’s.
Here is what Warrener was able to track down, regarding the medal.
James Wayman Vanden was born in Cairo, Illinois, on Aug. 10, 1924. Shortly after that he moved to DeSoto County in Jefferson, Missouri.
Vanden was employed by the International Shoe Company and lived at 822 South Second, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 16, 1943.
His civil occupation listed on his enlistment card was: Skilled mechanic, repairman, motor vehicles.
He was assigned to the Army’s ordinance department, and served there for nine months to 11 months.
“It gets a little murky from there,” Warrener continues.
Vanden was listed as killed in action, but his hospital admission card says that he was treated for a non-battle injury having to do with frostbite on his toes, Warrener reports.
Vanden died on July 27, 1944.
He was interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri on April 16, 1948, making it likely that Vanden was cremated, according to Warrener’s research.
Vanden’s next of kin is listed as Bert Shaffer, husband of M.R. Shaffer, who lived at 33541 Isabelle Drive in Zephyrhills in 1994, when the item was donated.
Since the artifact doesn’t have much to do with Florida history, Warrener said he likely will try to contact a museum in Missouri that might have an interest in the item.
Published December 28, 2022