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Minnesota Pastor On A Mission To Return WWI Medal To Veteran's Family

CROSSLAKE, Minn. (WCCO) -- You could call it a Memorial Day mystery.

Tony Oltmann, of Cross Lake, won some tools and a metal cabinet in an online auction, and when he finally got the cabinet open, what he found inside put him on a mission.

"It's a blast to take something someone has discarded and is no longer useful, and give it new life," he said.

That's kind of what Oltmann preaches every day. He's the pastor at Crosslake Presbyterian Church. But in his free time he goes online, looking for vintage tools to buy and restore.

Last fall he won a hand plane and a chisel in an auction. They came with an old metal cabinet that Oltmann didn't necessarily want, but he quickly changed his mind when he found out what was inside.

"When I picked it up I could tell there was something inside because it just kind of rattled," Oltmann said.

Using a screwdriver he opened the cabinet to find a medal from World War I.

"The great war for civilization has the U.S. in the middle in different countries on either side," Oltmann said.

There was also a medal from the Vietnam War, along with state IDs belonging to Dennis Cook, a veteran. So Otlmann began doing research.

"He passed away in 2015. I went through his obituary and found his wife, and it looks like she died in October 2018," Oltmann said.

Since then he's had no luck tracking down family, and he thinks they sold the cabinet without knowing what treasured relics it contained.

He's hoping to find them so he can return what's theirs, and restore a piece of history.

"I really want to give these back, especially since they are medals and someone earned them." Oltmann said. "It's the time of year where we're remembering people who gave a lot, and be sure they know what sacrifices their family gave."

Oltmann says that if the family sees this story, they can contact him at Crosslake Presbyterian Church by calling 218-692-4769.

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