They may be halfway around the world, but John and Catherine Marshall-East feel like they know the man they helped return home to Effingham.
After discovering items like an instrumental panel, gun site and foot pedals 18 feet underground, they also discovered a wallet. And even though there were receipts and paperwork inside, the couple was still anxious to learn more about Charles “Butch” Moritz.
Moritz Concrete was embossed on the outside of the wallet. The business that Moritz’s father owned is still in operation today, under the name Mid-Illinois Concrete.
Underneath the company name on the wallet were the letters Ef and then Illinois, with a possible second f in the city’s name. For whatever reason, the rest of the letters in Effingham were rubbed off of the wallet.
Using their resources, the couple dug out an atlas and looked for all the cities in Illinois that started with Ef, and discovered Effingham was the only one.
“We thought, ‘oh wow, that’s got to be it,’” John Marshall-East said.
From there, they jumped onto the Daily News’ website to do more research, and found an obituary for George, a brother to Moritz. The World War II pilot was listed as a brother who had preceded George in death.
The couple from England kept checking back to the newspaper’s website, anxiously waiting for coverage on the discovery of Moritz. When the story was published online last week, it included his obituary photo, which was a photo taken of Moritz as a pilot.
Even though the private group of vintage aircraft enthusiasts, called the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group, is responsible for bringing a soldier home and ending decades of unanswered questions for his family, John and Catherine had no idea what the young man looked like until they researched the Daily News’ website.
“Oh my word, it’s Butch. That’s what he looked like,” John Marshall-East said about he and wife’s reaction to the innocence in Moritz’s young eyes. “We didn’t know what he looked like.”
And even though the story is miraculous, it’s also heartbreaking for John because Moritz’s older sister, Ruth, died a little more than a year before her brother was discovered. The recovery process for her brother took nearly four years.
“It’s absolutely tragic,” he said, referring to Ruth’s untimely death.
But John and Catherine haven’t ended their work for the Moritz family. They plan to fly from the United Kingdom to Chicago, catch the Amtrak train to Effingham and arrive in town Friday evening for Moritz’s services at 1 p.m. Saturday in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Effingham. They’ll leave for Chicago via rail Monday morning.
Making the trip to the states was a priority for John.
“We’re responsible for finding him. We feel it’s sort of our duty to be there. We feel like we know him.”