First Lt. Walter B. Ingledew Jr.’s Purple Heart medal is back in the family.
His niece, Barbara Martens of Shorewood, on Monday received the Purple Heart and other medals that had been lost before they showed up in the Illinois State Treasurer’s unclaimed properties inventory.
“They were missing for 10 years,” Martens said as she waited for the start of a ceremony at Stone City Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2199 in Joliet, where Treasurer Michael Frerichs brought her the medals.
“It’s a day of mixed emotions,” she said. “There’s a sadness that I never really got to know him”
First Lt. Ingledew, a fighter pilot in World War II, was killed when his plane was shot down over France on Aug. 14, 1944. He was 23 years old.
Martens was born the next year.
But she did get to know her uncle, whom everyone called “Bud,” during weekly visits to her grandparents as she grew up on the South Side of Chicago in the Parkwood Manor neighborhood.
“I heard many stories of him, and there was a picture of him hanging over my grandparents’ mantel,” Martens said. “Every time I went to my grandparents, I saw him.”
Martens became the custodian of Uncle Bud’s war medals after her own mother, Bud’s sister, died in 1994.
Unfortunately, Martens went through thyroid cancer and suffered memory loss at a time when she lost track of the bank safe deposit box where she kept the medals. When the bank lost track of Martens, the medals were turned over to the state treasurer.
It’s not that unusual a situation, Frerichs said at the ceremony.
He has returned seven Purple Hearts to the families of soldiers, each one of which came to the state from a bank safe deposit box.
“My office has more than 100 military medals that we’re trying to return,” Frerichs said.
Martens said her grandparents and mother never got over the loss of Bud. When her mother died, Martens opened some letters from Bud that had never previously been read because his parents and sister could not bear to read them when they were received after his death.
Losing track of the war medals was agonizing enough that when she received the call that they had been found, Martens said, it “evoked all kinds of emotions.”
“It resolved a lot of conflict I had gone through over the fact that when they were under my guardianship I had lost them,” she said.
Other medals in the collection are two Air Medals, given for acts of heroism or meritorious achievement in aerial flight, with four Oak Leaf clusters and two Campaign star ribbons.
Ingledew served in the 428th Fighter Squadron, 474th Fighter Group of the Ninth Army Air Force, which was active over Normandy during D-Day, according to the treasurer’s office.
When her grandparents and mother talked about Bud, Martens said, it was not much about his acts of war heroism, but the kind of person he was at home.
“He was a fun-loving person. He loved to play clarinet,” she said.
Martens’ daughter, Margot Underwood of Plainfield, said she always has been fascinated by the stories of young Bud “sneaking into jazz bars” on the South Side.
“Everything about him – he was fun,” Margot said.
The veterans at Stone City VFW Post who joined in the ceremony said they were happy to see a fellow soldier’s medals reunited with his family.
“I know I take care of my medals,” said Richard Mejia, a Vietnam War veteran. “I hope my future generations take care of my medals.”