Treasure Chest

Someone’s trash is a military family’s treasure: Ours

Posted 6/19/24

Everyone is aware that the internet can have its negative impact on cybersurfers.  Just log in and you’ll see a widespread distribution of fake news, cyber-bullying, on-line threats, …

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Treasure Chest

Someone’s trash is a military family’s treasure: Ours


Everyone is aware that the internet can have its negative impact on cybersurfers.  Just log in and you’ll see a widespread distribution of fake news, cyber-bullying, on-line threats, cyber-theft, revenge and child porn.  Its use can even lead to internet addiction.

But the internet can also be a valuable tool for sharing information, researching issues, even locating long-lost friends and family members.  As I recently found out, the net was used to return my father’s olive green foot locker – issued during World War II – to me.

This foot locker was found on a street curb in Detroit, Michigan, ultimately to find its way back to this writer residing in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  Seven hundred miles separate these two cities.  And it’s been over 80 years since my father packed his personal items, extra uniforms, and toiletries into it.


At 11:30 p.m. on April 24, 2024,  I received a Facebook chat message from a person I have never met. “Mr. Weiss, I found an old army trunk in Detroit with the name, Lt. Frank M. Weiss, stenciled on the front side of the olive green trunk,” stated Michael, a Detroit resident, excitedly sharing a photo of the foot locker resting in the back of his pickup truck.   

Michael would later tell me that he was driving around his neighborhood “looking for scrap” that he would sell, and watched a person drag the old military footlocker to the curb. The former owner’s name was “Lt. Frank M. Weiss,” and it was prominently painted on its front. This caught Michael’s attention.  He later told me that he learned that this trunk had been stored in a garage in his neighborhood – for almost 60 years.

This foot locker might be a great piece of décor for somebody’s apartment, he remembers thinking before stopping to pick it up off the curb.  It would be easy to sell, too, he thought.

Michael went home and showed it to his girlfriend, Cetaura, suggesting that it might sell quickly at a local flea market to bring extra cash into their household. “It would be a great decorative piece for someone to buy,” he said, thinking someone might turn it into a coffee table.

“Out of curiosity my girlfriend searched the internet,” Michael told me, “seeking more details about the life of Lt. Frank M. Weiss.”  Was he an American hero, they wondered?

Cetaura quickly found an article that I had previously written about World War II vets dying (“In coming years, generations of older veterans will be leaving us”).  The article was dedicated to Second Lt. Frank M. Weiss, my father.  So, the net search gave Cetaura and Michael a lead.  There might be a family connection between them they speculated, contacting me through Facebook to confirm.

And amazingly, yes, there was.

Confirming Proof of Ownership

I told Michael that my parents lived in Detroit, Michigan, during World War II.  They were married in that city in 1942.  With my grandfather, Samuel Weller, being a prominent defense attorney, almost every Detroit judge attended their wedding.

My father was drafted into the military service and would serve in military bases around the country (including the 1033rd Technical School Squadron, Kearus, Utah, the 357thTechnical School Squadron at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, 3705th AAF Base Unit, Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado, and the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command, Miami Beach, Florida).  He entered the U.S. Army Air Force at the rank of private and left the military as a Second Lt.

Michael said he would give me the footlocker and I paid to have it shipped to my residence in Rhode Island.  While I waited for this footlocker to arrive, I was attempting to verify that it really had belonged to my father.  Of course, I wanted to be 100 percent sure that it was his.

The Detroit Public Library confirmed that after the war my parents moved from Detroit to Saginaw in 1946, and then relocated to Grand Rapids in the 1950s.  They would ultimately move to Dallas, Texas in 1951. But it seems that his military footlocker remained in Detroit, never reaching his new home in North Dallas. 

I wondered, could the foot locker have belonged to another “Lt. Frank M. Weiss?”   A research librarian confirmed that they could identify only one Frank M. Weiss in Detroit in the 1940s.  The others with Frank Weiss’s identified had different middle initials.  But could I consider this as total proof?

After the footlocker arrived, I closely examined a faded mailing label on its top.  By enlarging the label with Photoshop, my graphic designer was able to identify my father’s Detroit mailing address, 16841 Wildemere Avenue,  (which matched the address in his military records) on the label.  Now I was convinced that this trunk was owned by my father.  

Because of the kindness of Michael and Cetaura, I was able to thank them for their tireless efforts to locate the family of Second Lt. Frank M. Weiss. My father’s military footlocker has finally come home.  It was empty but today it contains the folded American Flag we received at his funeral, his scrapbook of faded pictures of his comrades and assigned bases from his long-ago days in the military and memorabilia, all safely in his footlocker.  Now it is truly a treasure chest.

Special thanks to the librarians at the DPL’s special collections for their assistance in verifying the ownership of the military footlocker.

Herb Weiss, LRI -12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who has covered aging, health care and medical issues for over 43 years. To purchase his books, Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly and a sequel, compiling weekly published articles, go to


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