VFW returns WWII Bronze Star to family

RETURNED — Mike Rutledge, VFW Post 2716 commander, presented Fran Maragos with her step-grandfather’s Bronze Star from World War II. Also also attending Tuesday’s ceremony was Maragos’ husband, Marco Maragos. -- Taryn Linder

WEIRTON — Veterans helped veterans in Tuesday’s return of a Bronze Star.

Hidden in a drawer at the Weirton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2716, Mike Rutledge, post commander, found a Bronze Star from World War II.

About two months after the discovery, Rutledge was able to unite the medal with the family of its recipient, Earl H. Ohnezeit.

A native of Beaver Falls, Pa., Ohnezeit was born July 30, 1909, a son of Herman and Stella Ohnezeit.

He worked last at the Crucible Steel Division of Colt Industries, but was the former owner of Earl’s Market.

Ohnezeit’s experiences during World War II earned him not one, but two Bronze Stars.

The Bronze Star awarded to members of the Armed Forces for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Ohnezeit’s second medal has not been located, nor have the reasons for which he earned either of the medals.

Rutledge said finding information on Ohnezeit was difficult.

“I even went to the Wall of Valor for Bronze Stars, but his name wasn’t there,” noted Rutledge. “The only reason we knew who the medal belonged to was because his name was on it.”

Rutledge found the medal during a clean-up of the post. He then started on a mission to find it a home.

“There is no telling how long it has been there,” he said.

Rutledge recruited the help of Patricia Hans, VFW Auxiliary president.

“We thought Ohnezeit was buried in Wellsville, so I reached out to Angelo Luckino because he lives there and knows everyone,” said Hans.

Luckino went to the Wall of Honor but Ohnezeit’s name was not on it. He then asked around the Wellsville VFW, but again came out empty handed.

“It was when I ran into Bob Culp at a McDonald’s that things changed,” said Luckino. “We owe it all to Bob.”

Culp went on a grave finding app and learned Ohnezeit was buried at Columbiana County Memorial Park in East Liverpool.

Luckino contacted the memorial park and was given contact information.

Rutledge was then able to track down Ohnezeit’s step-granddaughter, Fran Maragos.

“It was a domino effect,” said Luckino.

Maragos’ grandmother, Fran Wilson Ohnezeit, was Ohnezeit’s second wife, and he her third husband.

“I was worried that he may have more immediate family, but everyone said they exhausted all resources and could not find anyone else,” said Maragos. “From what I remember, he was quite, gentle and very large.”

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