ELYRIA — A pair of dog tags lost decades ago on a beach in Italy by an American soldier were returned Sunday to his children.
Richard Robert Radigan, who served in the Army during World War II, apparently lost the dog tags while serving near Rome. Up until just a few months ago no one in his family knew they existed.
Radigan, a former Olmsted Township trustee, died in 1971 just two weeks after his 48th birthday. He left behind two children who said their father didn’t speak much about his Army service spanning less than two years from 1943 to 1944.
“As far as I know, this is all we have,” Dorothy Baker said. “He just didn’t talk about ... his time there much.”
The dog tags were returned by Italians Vittorio Argenti and Gregory Alegi. It took Argenti months to track down Baker and Michael Radigan, but once he did, returning the lost tags became an essential part of his life’s journey.
On Sunday, all four met briefly in the parking lot of American Legion Post 12 to exchange the small pieces of metal bearing Richard Radigan’s name.
“I was only 11 when my father passed away so I didn’t get the opportunity to know him very well,” Michael Radigan said. “But this was like a piece of him coming back to me. I have one picture of my father — a little 4 x 6 photo — and now this.”
Radigan said he is still amazed to know the dog tags were found simply by a man walking along a beach with a metal detector. They were eventually given to Argenti because he had a friend at the American embassy in Rome.
“I was told this man picked up on the dog tags and dug down just a few feet in the sand to find them. They were both still together,” Michael Radigan said.
Now, Baker and her brother each have one of the dog tags — possibly the only memento that exists from their father’s time in the service.
“I was just 19 when my dad died,” Baker said. “He walked me down the aisle in September and passed away in January. My dad was loved by everybody. He was supposed to become a priest until he met my mother and then that went out the window. This just felt wonderful. It was great. It just brought all the memories back. He was a great dad.”
While not planned, Michael Radigan said receiving the dog tags made this holiday weekend that much more special.
“It worked out perfect,” he said. “The whole thing is kind of weird with it lining up on Memorial Day weekend. This was all because of two gentlemen with great big hearts. They didn’t need to do what they did. They went out of their way and it meant a lot.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or email@example.com.