KENNETT, MO (KFVS) - A love story, a stolen wallet and several determined women came together in Kennett on Friday in a meeting only fate could create. And, it was all centered around a pair of dog tags!
A few years ago Karla Graves found a pair of dog tags in the paper clip holder where she worked in Kennett. It drove her crazy wondering to whom they belonged. Little did she know they symbolized a bond between two veterans, a husband and wife, which started more than 50 years ago.
"I never regretted a day I was married to him," said Elizabeth Jessup.
They met in 1957 in a Los Angeles army hospital. Joseph had pneumonia and Elizabeth was his nurse.
"It grew into something beautiful and loving," Elizabeth said.
A few years later, Elizabeth says she was proud to become Mrs. Joseph Jessup.
They shared five adopted children and a love of military service.
She'd retire a lieutenant, and Joseph a highly decorated captain . Among his many awards was a Purple Heart from a mission in Vietnam
"It was his life," said Elizabeth.
He passed away in 1999. Elizabeth says there was no greater man.
"The years we had, I can't complain at all," said Elizabeth. "He treated me like a queen."
She carried his memory in her heart and his dog tags in her wallet until several years ago when the wallet was stolen. She never expected to see the tags again.
Yet, fate had other things in mind. Somehow, they ended up in a paper clip holder at Karla Graves' Kennett office. She has a son and other family members in the military, and knew the tags must mean something to someone.
"I thought, I wonder how old these are and whoever they belong to should have them back," said Karla.
So, Graves started her own search near Kennett and also contacted veterans affairs in Jefferson City. The information on the tags ended up in the hands of Jamie Reed who felt compelled to help figure out the mystery.
"There was a serial number on the dog tags that they used prior to 1976, so we knew they were older," said Reed. "Then we traced some other information and knew they went back even further. It took a lot of piecing information together."
A few weeks ago, the stars aligned from multiple paths. First Graves daughter-in-law discovered Mrs. Jessup was her customer at a local furniture store.
"I went to pay my bill and her daughter-in-law said, what was your husband's name?" said Elizabeth with a laugh. "And I said it's none of your business! And she said no Mrs. Jessup, my mother-in-law found your dog tags! Soon after that Karla's son brought them over!"
Meanwhile, clues led Reed to trace the tags to the Kennett area. She sent a letter to every Jessup she could find there. The day after Graves' discovery the letter from Reed arrived.
"It's a blessing from God," said Elizabeth.
Jessup says the tags bring to her mind all the wonderful things about her husband, yet in her heart, nothing could ever steal the love away.
"I have a piece of him every day of my life," said Elizabeth. "I really do. I always feel him with him. I know he's there."
Still missing is Captain Jessup's Congressional Medal Of Honor and some other items from his uniform. Those were also in the wallet when it was stolen. Mrs. Jessup says it means so much that Reed and Graves went out of their way to show support for veterans by tracking her down and returning her husband's tags.