Alberta man seeks family of Windsor WW I veteran to return medals

·3 min read
Medals belonging to Joseph Raymond Laforete, a First World War veteran from Windsor. Travis Parker of St. Albert, AB says he doesn't know how his family came to be in possession of them. (Submitted by Travis Parker - image credit)
Medals belonging to Joseph Raymond Laforete, a First World War veteran from Windsor. Travis Parker of St. Albert, AB says he doesn't know how his family came to be in possession of them. (Submitted by Travis Parker - image credit)

Travis Parker of St. Albert, AB knew he was going to get his grandfather's Second World War medals, but he didn't know that a mystery was going to come along with them.

Parker's aunt, who lives in the Windsor area, found medals belonging to his grandfather in a drawer. But when Parker opened the bag, he found First World War medals and a pin belonging to Joseph Raymond Laforet — someone he didn't recognize.

"We had just assumed that they were maybe a great grandfather's or somebody within the family, and so basically that's how we came to come into possession of these … And so here we are now," Parker told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre.

Parker decided to do some research, hoping that if he could find out more about Laforet, he'd be able to track down his descendents and return the medals to them.

But after speaking to relatives and "anybody that'll listen," Parker has not been able to establish what sort of relationship — if any — his grandfather had with Laforet, or how his family ended up with Laforet's military decorations.

Given that Laforet was a First World War veteran, he would have been significantly older than Parker's grandfather.

"They're connected in some fashion, we're thinking, but there would be an age gap," Parker said.

A medal "for service at the front" belonging to Joseph Raymond Laforet.
A medal "for service at the front" belonging to Joseph Raymond Laforet.(Submitted by Travis Parker)

He says the medals line up with two that Canadian soldiers could receive in the First World War. He says he knows they are originals and not replacement medals because they have Laforet's name engraved in them.

One has a statue on it that appears to have wings, and the other features a horse.

A life unveiled

Parker has researched Laforet's life mainly through an ancestry website.

"It's been kind of an addiction to be honest with you. I feel like I know the individual now," Parker said.

He found out that Laforet was a shop foreman at Chrysler, was married, settled in Chatham and died there in the early 1960s, and that he had many brothers and sisters.

A military recruiting record reveals that Laforet was born in Detroit in 1892, was Roman Catholic, and lists "fisherman" as his occupation. He was living in Windsor on Wyandotte Street when he was drafted.

A recruitment record for Joseph Raymond Laforete, containing many details of his life.
A recruitment record for Joseph Raymond Laforete, containing many details of his life.(Submitted by Travis Parker)

Parker says he hasn't been able to find any evidence of descendents yet.

If he's unable to find a family member of Laforet's to give them to, he's hoping to donate them somewhere or leave them at Laforet's final resting place.

"It has been fun, to say the least, in trying to be a researcher," he said. "I have a strong military background with my family. Both my grandfathers fought in World War II., which is really special to myself. And my father himself was in the Canadian military for over 30 years."

"So if it was something that was part of my family and was lost, I would hope that somebody would do the same thing for me."