A Pennsylvania woman found a long-lost military jacket on a beach that had been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
She had been sifting through debris along the Jersey Shore when a piece of gray cloth with shiny brass buttons caught her eye. She pulled the garment, which she initially thought was a Halloween costume, out of the sand. It turned out to be an 80-year-old jacket owned by a 1933 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point.
Its owner was described in his yearbook as a soldier with a “heart like a stormy sea.”
How the jacket ended up in New Jersey, hundreds of miles from its late owner Chester B. deGavre’s home on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, is a mystery. DeGavre’s widow, Tita deGavre, had no idea the jacket even existed.
Dugger drove hours to deliver the jacket to deGavre, who plans to hang it on the wall along will some of his other military memorabilia at Deep Creek Plantation.
“I found it most impossible to believe,” deGavre said. “Where could it have been all this time?”
Her late husband’s parents used to live in Red Bank, less than 10 miles from where the jacket was found. But that was many years ago, and the house has since been sold several times.
“Somebody must have had [the jacket] under great care, and whether their house blew away with Sandy, I don’t know,” deGavre said. “It’s all a big mystery, but I’m happy about it.”
Gugger, a pharmaceutical consultant from Holland, Pennsylvania, found the jacket while she and members of the Sandy Hook Bay Catamaran Club helped clean up the damage left by the superstorm.
She said the jacket was in excellent condition and she noticed the words “West Point” and “issued to deGavre” on the inside. She contacted West Point’s Association of Graduation, which had the jacket cleaned and preserved, and tracked down deGavre’s family.
Charles deGavre, a native of Newark, was a retired Army brigadier general. He was one of the first officers to take parachute training at the start of World War II. His decorations included a Silver Star from the Korean War and the Legion of Merit.
“This was a soldier, this was a war hero, somebody who risked his life for our country, and I was determined to get it back to the family,” Gugger said.
“It’s a miracle because it’s still a mystery how it made it to that beach and for me to have even had the opportunity to pick it up. It’s not really about the jacket, it’s about the journey.”