Four weeks ago, a man named Mark Spencer was looking for buried treasure on the beaches of Queensland, Australia, with his metal detector. He found a bracelet, and upon further inspection he realized that it belonged to a man named Hanford Rants. Because of the flags and other images on it, he deduced that Hanford must have been there during World War II.
Mark then called a lady named Francesca in Humboldt County who runs an organization called DogTags.com. She matches dog tags that have been found with the owner or next of kin. She then called my brother, Jon, in Colorado, and me, Jay, in beautiful Downey. We both were amazed! She put us both in touch with Mark, and through emailing, the bracelet arrived at my house last week.
My wife, Nikki, and I were overwhelmed with the significance of this tarnished piece of jewelry. My brothers and I will pass it back and forth – Downey to Oregon to Colorado – to give each of us the opportunity to experience a small part of my dad’s amazing “adventures” when he was overseas for 2 ½ years in the Philippines during WWII. Thank you very much, Mark!
My dad became pen pals with a lady from Tacoma, Wash. named Shirley Viken during the war. They corresponded for over two years. When he finally arrived back in the states, his ship docked in Tacoma. This allowed Shirley and her parents to meet Hanford as he left the ship.
Talk about love at first sight! Three days later, he asked her to get married. She said yes. So much for a long courtship.
Several years later they moved to Downey. Hanford was the second principal at South Junior High. Later he became the first principal at West Junior High. He coined the phrase “West is Best.” Later he became the second principal at Warren High School. During his tenure there, his three sons – Jon, Jay and Jack – all attended and graduated there. It was an awesome experience for the whole family.
In 1993, Hanford wrote a book about his war experiences, good and bad. It was written for his three sons, but eventually he sent out many copies of it to his war buddies, close friends, etc. People were amazed to read about the day to day “hell” that he and his buddies went through. Intense! He has written a supplement to his book which describes in brutal detail 16 times he should have died – and gives God thanks for seeing him through each experience.
I sent a copy of his book to Mark Spencer last week. I have some copies that I sell to people who are really interested in the true story of what WWII was like.
If my dad were still alive, he would have been overcome with emotion on seeing his old bracelet that was 73 years old.
Thank you, Mark Spencer, for allowing us to experience a small part of history that was an enormous part of my dad’s life.
Published: April 23, 2015 - Volume 14 - Issue 02