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Memorial Day weekend miracle with longtime missing dog tag turning up

In this 1970 photo, Bob Oxier, left, is shown with his father, the late Willard J. Oxier, whose dog tag, from his service in the Army during World War II was found some 60 years after it was lost. -- Contributed

TORONTO — What are the odds that a U.S. Army dog tag lost about six decades ago makes its presence known over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, finding its way back to relatives in the process?

A long shot to be sure, but Toronto resident Bob Oxier sees it more like a series of coincidences meant to be, maybe even a little divine intervention.

The 1968 graduate of Jefferson Union High School posted what he described as a “good Memorial Day story” on his Facebook page, one that generated a host of comments that ran the gamut from “a phenomenal story” and “a real blessing” to an “amazing miracle” and “that is a God moment.”

Bob agrees with all those “small world” responses to the return of the dog tag belonging to his father, the late Willard J. Oxier, a World War II Army veteran who died March 2, 1985.

It was Sunday evening when Bob had a phone conversation with his brother Kenny, who lives in New Hampshire. Kenny was excited to share the news he had recently learned after having spoken with their nephew, Paul Oxier.

Paul recently purchased a home in Follansbee and had occasion to meet his new neighbor, a woman whose brother just happened to be visiting. When Paul introduced himself as Paul Oxier, the surname rang familiar to the neighbor’s brother, who apparently lives in Toronto, Bob explained.

He asked Paul if he knew Larry Oxier. Yes, that was Paul’s father. Did he know a Willard Oxier? Yes, that was Paul’s grandfather.

The neighbor’s brother promised he had something for him, leaving only to return later that day with the dog tag he explained he had found a few years back when he was digging up a flower bed in an alley on Third Street in Toronto — in the vicinity of what would have been the no-longer-there Oxier family home at one time.

The story of a stunned and surprised Paul now in unexpected possession of his grandfather’s dog tag made its way from Follansbee to New Hampshire to Toronto to Facebook.

“Everyone says the Lord had a hand in it — I think so,” Bob said in a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon about having heard the dog tag story of many coincidences over the Memorial Day weekend no less.

Bob had noted in his Facebook post that when he was first born, the Oxier family had lived in a little house in the ally behind the First United Presbyterian Church of Toronto on Third Street.

He figured he couldn’t have been more than 4 or 6 years old when the dog tags went missing — “… we must have got in my dad’s box of Army medals and lost his dog tags outside,” Bob’s Facebook post noted.

“My brother Kenny remembered dad giving us heck for getting in his Army medals,” Bob said Wednesday. “We used to take those medals and pin them on our clothes,” he said of their childhood antics. He assumes they’re responsible for missing medals and the missing dog tag that ended up in the dirt, only to be unearthed decades later. What happened to the other dog tag he doesn’t know.

Willard J. Oxier spent three years in the service. “He was in Germany and loaded cannons,” Bob said of his father, whom he described as “a quiet guy who got along with everybody.”

His time in the service was not a topic of conversation. “He didn’t really talk about it too much, but he said his arms got awful sore loading those cannons.”

A native of Brilliant, Willard J. Oxier and his wife, Eloise, who died in 2004, had five children: Larry, who was killed in 1989, Bob, Kenny, Sherry and Vicki.

The discovery of the dog tag now back in family hands has made the 2020 Memorial Day holiday something extra special, Bob agrees. “Just the idea of so many coincidences coming together like that,” Bob said, including that the neighbor’s brother just happened to be visiting when Paul introduced himself.

Although Paul wanted to give the dog tag to his uncles, they instead encouraged Paul to hang on to the family keepsake.

“He can pass them on,” said Bob, who like his father also served in the Army. He served from 1970-73 and was in Thailand and Germany.

Bob resides in Toronto with his wife, Patti. They have four children and four grandchildren.

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