The silver identification bracelet that spent more than seven decades apart from its owner is now back home in Canada with the man to whom it originally belonged.

The bracelet has been in the keeping of Bernadina Smith and her family since Charles Bernhardt traded it to them in 1945. It bears Bernhardt's name, albeit misspelled, and his Canadian Army identification number.

The Smiths managed to trace the bracelet to Berhardt this summer. Last week, Bernadina's daughter-in-law, Karen Smith, and Karen's son, Kyle, of Albany traveled from Oregon to Summerland, British Columbia, to bring it back.

"We had a great time meeting and visiting with Charlie. He is such a wonderful man and we all had a great time sharing past history and memories," Karen Smith told the Democrat-Herald.

"Also, he told us that he is only 96 years old. I kept on saying he was 97 because that was what one of the news story said. We will have to find out what his birth date is."

Bernhardt was a young Canadian soldier during World War II. He said he received the bracelet as a gift from a young woman he met in London during a whirlwind romance in 1944, just before he set out to join the Normandy invasion.

A year later, Bernhardt was among the Allied forces that helped to liberate the town of Hoog-Keepel, the Netherlands, where Bernadina's family lived. Walking past the family's farmhouse one day, he offered the bracelet in exchange for fresh eggs.

It was a story Bernadina, who was about 12 years old when the war ended, often told her children. Son Tony remembered as he packed the bracelet with other family items earlier this summer when Bernadina, now 83, moved from her home in Corvallis to an assisted living facility in North Albany. He challenged Kyle to try to find Bernhardt.

It took some internet research and an appeal to a couple of historians, but Kyle tracked Bernhardt down. The final piece was finding a newsletter with a story honoring Bernhardt for receiving the French Legion of Honour award in 2016 for taking part in the Normandy invasion.

Kyle wrote to Bernhardt and Bernhardt answered. "He was so overjoyed and touched that we wanted to come and personally wanted to deliver (the bracelet)," Karen said.

Bernhardt served as a radio operator in a tank during the war. He told the Smiths he wasn't allowed to wear earplugs on the job, which led to hearing issues that persist today.

"And he has some mobility issues, but otherwise he is doing fine," Karen said.

Bernhardt returned to Summerland after the war ended. The area was known for orchards, and he acquired and farmed 40 acres of fruit trees, as well as buying smaller orchards. From 1973-77, he served as president of the British Columbia Fruit Growers Association.

He retired at age 57, was married several times and has at least three children, Karen Smith said.

During his service, Bernhardt was part of the British Columbia Regiment. That unit was captured marching down a street in New Westminster, Canada, in a photograph by Claude P. Dettloff. As Dettloff got ready to shoot, a little boy ran up to grab his father's hand. Dettloff titled the photograph, "Wait for Me, Daddy."

Bernhardt told the Smiths in 2014, he'd been among the soldiers to receive a commemorative copy of the picture, along with a postage stamp bearing the image and a commemorative coin with the names of the soldiers in that unit that were killed in combat. He also received a card with his name and rank on it, plus his regiment number, the same number engraved on the bracelet.

Earlier this year, Karen Smith said, Bernhardt and his son were invited to go to France for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France. It is Canada's largest overseas war memorial.

"They got to go there in a private Royal Canadian Air force jet," Karen said. "He has been a very busy person these last couple of years."

The Smiths plan to keep in touch, she said. They're already making plans to join the rest of the Bernhardt family for Charlie's centennial in a few years.

Bernhardt didn't specifically remember trading the bracelet, Karen said. But he told the family "that this bracelet represents love. Love from the girl he got it from, love to the family that he traded it to for some food during the war time and then love from the Smith family wanting to return the bracelet back to him in person."


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