LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — This Veterans Day, a Kansas City metro woman needs your help finding the family of a man she has never met.
Her father served in World War II. When he died, he left behind a lot of mementos from his service, and one of them turned out to be a mystery. That mystery comes in the form of a photograph.
“Walter remains a mystery to me,” Judith Meeks-Mayo said. “Who was Walter, and what happened?”
She held a photo in her hand. A mystery soldier stands in the image, smiling.
“I have this picture of Walter B Ward. Just identified with my father’s handwriting on the back as: Walter B. Ward, Springfield, Missouri. Fort George Wright, Spokane Washington, June 1941.”
It’s been almost 70 years since this photograph of the young man standing in front of a tent was taken. It’s been more than 40 years since Meeks-Mayo’s father from Scotland County, Missouri died. The photo was kept safe in his desk all these years.
“Evidently, it meant something to him, and because he passed away when I was 15, I will never know. But it makes for an interesting story,” Meeks-Mayo said. “I don’t know how they knew each other, other than they’re both from Missouri, and I’m guessing they both must have received some kind of training at Fort George Wright in Spokane, Washington.”
Meeks-Mayo wants to know more; she just doesn’t have much to go on. Any hope she’s had of contacting Walter B. Ward’s family has come from technology.
“So what I found was Walter B. Ward, 1915 to 1945,” she said, reading from a website. “It shows his headstone.”
The website states that Walter B. Ward is buried in Springfield National Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri. The site includes his obituary.
“It says that he had been overseas ten months and made 47 missions when they last heard from him,” Meeks-Mayo reads out loud. “Lt. Ward was a photographer for months and had flown a very fast, unarmed ship, taking pictures of enemy positions. He was killed recently over Germany.”
The site also has a listing of his relatives, most of whom are listed as living in Springfield. Meeks-Mayo said she believes she’s found some of his family members, but she hasn’t had any luck contacting them.
The labor and delivery nurse is a self-professed mystery buff. Now, she has a real life one on her hands.
“Here I have this photograph of somebody that I have no way of knowing who the family is, how to contact them.” She sat across from a reporter at her kitchen table and snapped her fingers. “And – bright idea – let’s contact FOX4 and ask for a little help with this. Let’s make it go viral and national, and maybe someone will know something.”
While everyone can honor vets with American flags this weekend, Meeks-Mayo would like to honor the Ward family with a photo of their veteran.
“I would like for Walter’s picture to be returned to one of his family members because they may not have any pictures of him, or very few pictures of him, and I think it would mean something to them.”
If you know anything about Walter B. Ward’s family, Meeks-Mayo asks you contact her via email: email@example.com.
Meeks-Mayo reached out to FOX4 because of our Hometown Heroes photo submissions. If you would like to submit a photo of your veteran, click here.