Retirement badge of Mo. city's 1st fire marshal returned to family years after being lost
The late Clayton Fire Marshal Roy Weckherlin's badge was lost in a restaurant in Florida years ago, and the Florida man who found it spent four years working to return it to its rightful place
By Taylor Tiamoyo Harris
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
CLAYTON, Mo. — The daughter of Clayton's first fire marshal on Tuesday retrieved her father's retirement badge after losing it in Florida.
Jill Halsey, 75, of St. Charles, lost the badge at a Florida restaurant years ago -- when, exactly, is unclear. But now, thanks to the diligence of Clayton fire Chief John Paul Jones, as well as the Florida man who found the badge, Halsey again has a piece of family history.
"It's like a piece of him is back with me," Halsey said of her father, Roy Weckherlin. "The fire department was everything to him."
Ray Wright, 66, of St. Petersburg, Florida, found the badge in 2016. He initially turned it in to the restaurant's lost and found, but curiosity led him to take a picture of the badge and conduct his own research. He discovered the badge was from Missouri, so he contacted the Clayton Fire Department.
But the department had no luck finding Weckherlin's family until Jones, who joined the department in February, began making some cold calls. About two weeks ago, he found Weckherlin's family.
"It feels great. This is what I wanted to happen," Wright said Tuesday in an interview with the Post-Dispatch. A navy veteran, Wright noted that he would want any lost accolades he'd earned returned to him, too. "When I saw (the badge) I wondered how long it'd been out there. I didn't know if it'd washed in from the shore."
Weckherlin died in 1991, in his 80s, from lung cancer. He served as Clayton's first fire marshal and assistant fire chief in the 1950s, and in all he served with the fire department from 1943 to 1969. In retirement, he worked with the St. Louis County Health Department.
"There's so many sacrifices people make to be firefighters and serve their community, and those sacrifices aren't just the firefighters -- they're family as well," said Capt. Ryan Harrell, of the Clayton Fire Department. "Any little trinket or piece that we can leave with them to pay tribute to the sacrifices they've made. We want to make sure that it gets back to them."
Halsey said the restaurant where she lost her father's badge years ago was also a popular vacation spot for the family during Halsey's childhood. She said she plans to go back to the restaurant and thank Wright in person.
Wright said he'd be happy to meet Halsey.
"We can meet at that same table I found it," he said.
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