Thanks to the power of the Internet and genealogy websites, a missing bracelet has been reunited with its rightful owners after being lost for more than 70 years.
The dog tag-style bracelet with the inscription “Joe J Stowe” on the front panel and “Bonnie & Ronald” engraved on the back belonged to Joe Jay Stowe of Georgia. The now-deceased man had apparently misplaced the golden chain-linked ID bracelet while serving with the U.S. Army during World War II, sometime between 1943 and 1944.
It was recently returned to Stowe’s son, Ronald Stowe of Gainesville, a couple of weeks ago thanks to Audrey Jackson of England. She said it was found by her father, Clifford Brown, who served in the Royal Air Force during WWII. Stowe said he plans to make it a family keepsake.
“I intend to keep the bracelet in a safe place and pass it down to my son and later my grandson,” James “Ronald” Stowe said.
How, when and where the bracelet was lost and later found remains a mystery. Ronald Stowe, 73, said his father never mentioned having an ID bracelet made with all three family member’s names on it. And Jackson said her father never explained how he came to possess such a personal item. But both men were stationed in England and Iceland during the war.
“(As) a child, I do remember him saying that it had belonged to an American,” the 80-year-old Englishwoman said in an email to Stowe.
She rediscovered the ID bracelet gathering dust in a box after her father died in 1982.
“For some unknown reason I could not bring myself to throw it away, although I didn’t have any idea how I could possibly trace him,” Jackson said.
Fast forward 33 years and Jackson decided to try to reunite the bracelet with its owners. She started her quest on ancestry.com.
Fortunately, she discovered a family tree on the website listing the three Stowe members she knew of — Joe, Bonnie and Ronald. She reached out and contacted the person on the link. It was New York resident Valerie Aleixo, Ron Stowe’s cousin.
On Jan. 28, Stowe received an email from Aleixo, telling him an Englishwoman was trying to find someone who related to the Stowes. The email said Jackson had a bracelet possibly belonging to Joe Stowe. Ron quickly shot off an email to Jackson, but not without a few questions.
“My first reaction was that the story was most likely a scam, but Mrs. Jackson never asked for any money or favors for returning the bracelet, not even reimbursement for postage from England,” Stowe said.
Jackson’s description of the bracelet and how she came by it gave Stowe a better impression of her intentions.
“I was surprised that a bracelet actually existed since I never saw my father wear any jewelry other than a wedding ring,” Ron Stowe said. “Other family members are just as puzzled as me as to the origin of the bracelet.”
He told Jackson about his father’s service in England and an ID bracelet he wore. In fact, he sent Jackson a picture of a bracelet similar to one his father was given by his mother, Bonnie.
While it was not the same bracelet, it was quite apparent the bracelet belonged to his family.
“I must admit that I was skeptical at first, but everything seems to indicate that the bracelet actually belonged to my father,” Stowe said.
Therefore, Jackson packed up the family heirloom and shipped it to Gainesville. When it arrived in Georgia, Stowe took it to Gainesville Jewelry for an opinion on the bracelet’s authenticity.
“The bracelet is 12-karat gold-plated material, which leads the jeweler to believe the bracelet was made in Europe,” Stowe said. “If it had been made in America, he believes it would have been either 10-karat or 14-karat gold-plated.”
The jewelry store also told Stowe the style of bracelet was popular from the 1940s to the 1960s.
“It is amazing that the little bracelet survived all these years and found its way across the ocean to be rejoined with its family,” Stowe said.