WWII Vet Travels Cross-Country To Return Photo Stolen 70 Years Ago
Story by 13 On Your Side Newsroom
(Huffington Post) - Jim Williams was a 22-year-old Coast Guard gunner's mate in WWII when he stole a photo of Ruby Ruff from her home.
The photo was the only thing he's ever stolen and he's felt badly about it ever since. So at 92, Williams tracked down the girl from the picture and returned it to her after 70 years.
In 1943, Williams was stationed on the Oregon coast, and he met Ruby Ruff during one of his trips to Portland.
The two became friends after a night of dancing.
Their relationship was strictly platonic, but families would often open their homes to servicemen during the war, so Ruff invited Williams over to her house after the dance.
When Williams saw Ruff's photo framed on an end table, he slipped it out and stuffed the frame between the cushions.
"One of the reasons why I took it was people had pictures of girls on their bunks at Depoe Bay, but I didn't have any," he told KOMO4. "So I thought this was a good chance to get one."
It was a decision he'd regret for decades.
Ruby Ruff is now Ruby Hazen, and has been married for 67 years to an airman.
The couple's address? Memory Lane in Silver Lake, Wash.
When Williams was preparing for what might be his last road trip to visit his daughter in Los Angeles, he knew it was time to return the photo.
He stopped by the Oregonian's offices and the newspaper published the 1943 photo on its front page with the headline "In Search Of Ruby Ruff."
One of Hazen's relatives saw the article and a week later Williams was able to mail the photo back to her, including a hand-written letter in which he apologized for stealing, and recounted all the places her photo had been.
"The photo had survived battles in the South and North Pacific, submarine attacks, survived 30 consecutive nights of bombing, two wives and a typhoon in the China Sea," Williams wrote.
Even though they weren't able to reunite in person, KOMO4 arranged a Skype call between Williams and Hazen, so he could apologize for stealing the photo.
"I think it's nice that he carried my picture with him for moral support throughout the war," Hazen told the Oregonian.
"He must be a nice guy to come all that way to return my picture. I think it's pretty awesome."
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