When Amie Wirth was thrift shopping last week, a colorful sewing basket caught her eye.
"Because it was $2.99. You can't go wrong," said Wirth, who lives in New Britain.
What started out as a bargain find for Wirth, though, quickly turned into a trip back in time.
Inside the sewing basket, Wirth found dog tags from World War II belonging to a Morris A. Johnson. She found the sewing basket at a Savers store and had no idea the dog tags were inside.
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"He was a veteran. He served the country. That is a real personal item," said Wirth.
She was determined to make a family connection and return the dog tags. Her friend, Tamara Zinn, saw Wirth's post on Facebook about the dog tags and she got to work.
"I told my family to call me Nancy, Nancy Drew," said Zinn.
Zinn did some online sleuthing and retraced the veteran's family tree. Her work eventually led her to Bruce Eberhardt, who lives in New Britain.
“They said they have these dog tags for Morris Johnson, do you know who that is? Well, yeah! That’s my uncle. Where the heck did she find that?” said Eberhardt.
Eberhardt has no idea how his uncle's dog tags ended up in a thrift shop. He said that Morris was a kind and quiet man who lived with his beloved wife Mitsy, or Myrtle.
Morris kept to himself and did not talk about the war. He died in 1988. Eberhardt said that his uncle had a big heart.
“Just a generally good guy," said Eberhardt.
All of those memories were at the top of his mind Wednesday as he held his uncle's dog tags for the first time.
"When I saw those tags it just all came running back. It was beautiful," said Eberhardt. "Very emotional."
Eberhardt said that he and his wife are planning on framing Morris's dog tags with a picture of him. He was very grateful that Wirth and her friend went to such great lengths to return the special piece of history.
"He wore these while he was fighting for our country and I can’t think of a better thing to do than to reunite them with the family," said Zinn.
"It was worth every penny," said Wirth. "And then some."
Eberhardt said he will cherish the day for the rest of his life.
"I hope he's up in heaven looking down on this," said Eberhardt.
The mystery is not completely solved yet. There were also pictures of a young girl and buttons from a Hartford firefighter inside the sewing basket. Wirth is still searching for their owners.