The Dirt Hounds (Bailey Andrichuk, Brandon Kuczynski, Brad Cappon) and Lois Maurer showing the nurse’s VAD medal earned by C. Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

The Dirt Hounds (Bailey Andrichuk, Brandon Kuczynski, Brad Cappon) and Lois Maurer showing the nurse’s VAD medal earned by C. Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

VIDEO: Long-buried silver medal returned to B.C. family of war nurse

Metal detectors found war medal in field, researcher linked it to Chilliwack family

The surviving Chilliwack niece of a First World War nurse was presented with a medal her aunt earned caring for soldiers more than 100 years ago.

“It’s as though I’d been chosen for something.”

Lois Maurer, 95, described how it felt to have the medal back in the hands of family in an interview outside her care home, on Sunday (March 14), with her daughter, Nada Reid.

“Because how did this come to me? Why did it get to me? I’m kind of a fatalist,” Maurer told the small crowd.

It turns out the silver medal engraved with “C. Whittle” had belonged to her aunt, Carrie Whittle.

“She must have been quite a lady,” Maurer said about the relative she never met.

Whittle had left Chilliwack by the time Maurer was born in 1925. “And my mom was too, a real hard worker and got things done.”

Handing over the medal to Maurer on Sunday was Brandon Kuczynski of Langley, who dug it out of a field in Chilliwack last spring. Together with his fiancée Bailey Andrichuk, and friend Brad Cappon of Chilliwack, they are metal-detecting hobbyists, The Dirt Hounds.

Kuczynski’s said his equipment started beeping like crazy when it detected the silver medal in the old field. It was down fairly deep. Up to that point they’d recovered coins, gold rings and cellphones in previous sessions.

Never a rare item like a nurse’s medal from the Great War like this.

“I think the museum is a great spot for it,” said Dirt Hound Brad Cappon.

It was the research of ancestry sleuth Marion Robinson, who tracked down the living relatives of C. Whittle in Chilliwack.

CTV storyteller Mike McCardell did a segment weeks ago on the Dirt Hounds trying find any living relatives of the medal recipient: C. Whittle.

Robinson said she saw the story when it aired, and got right to work on her laptop researching the Whittle family roots.

RELATED: Medal was down deep in a field

Kucynski said that finding the medal has put the spotlight on the life of a nurse who cared for people most of her life, which is timely during a global pandemic with the primacy of front-line healthcare workers.

The image of the wartime nurse is gradually coming into focus. Whittle was born in England in 1881, but had family who moved to Chilliwack. She eventually joined them by 1911 in a home on Camp River Road.

Caroline (Carrie) Whittle enlisted in 1914 to go overseas as a nursing volunteer and served in England and France. She was awarded the nurse’s VAD medal, Two Scarlet Efficiency Stripes, and in May 1919 was honoured with the silver British War/Victory Medal, according to Robinson’s research.

The image of King George is on one side of the medal, and a figure on horseback is on the other. The medal was a type of nurse’s honour attached by a ribbon bestowed on those who served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) by caring for convalescing soldiers. She was posted to a hospital in Bristol, and elsewhere around London.

Her story is becoming clearer now that the medal has resurfaced.

“Caroline was a nurse dealing with trench warfare, and all the horrors that brought,” said Robinson.

She‘d also been engaged a soldier who she met overseas, but he was killed during the war.

Following the war Whittle joined a religious order, and by 1920 had became Mother Juanita Noel, and eventually founded hospitals and schools in the U.S. She worked with children suffering from polio and saved lives.

“Your auntie is truly a hero,” Robinson told Maurer. “Here we have a person who gave herself to the saving of hundreds and hundreds of people, children and adults, in the days when we didn’t have much hope for polio and neither for tuberculosis. She sets an example for us because of how she gave. And she reminds each and every one of us that we can all give, each in our own little way.”

One mystery remains, the question of how the medal ended up buried in that field in Chilliwack.

“Caroline had no kids and became a Mother Superior in Colorado. She apparently was not to have any belongings so she must have given the medal to her sister?” was one scenario Robinson was considering to explain how it got there.

Research showed that Whittle’s sister, Laura Whittle married a man named Mr. Bessette, and had kids. One of their daughters was Lois.

The family has decided to donate the medal to the Chilliwack Museum for posterity and safe-keeping, but wanted to share the extraordinary story of their family member with the public now that it has resurfaced decades after her death in 1971.

READ MORE: More to metal detecting than treasure hunting

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

chilliwackFirst World War

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Ancestry researcher Marion Robinson helped find the Chilliwack family of nurse Carrie Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Ancestry researcher Marion Robinson helped find the Chilliwack family of nurse Carrie Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Medal found by metal detectors handed over to Chilliwack family of First World War nurse. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Medal found by metal detectors handed over to Chilliwack family of First World War nurse. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Just Posted

Salvation Army Capt. Michael Ramsay, right, receives a donation of $5,000 on behalf of the Bread of Life from RBC Foundation members Mena Rai, left, with nephews Makhan and Kartar, RBC’s Eric Matheson, Rai’s nieces Veera and Isha, and RBC manager Leona Horvath. Rai’s nieces and nephews often participate in RBC fundraising initiatives. SONJA DRINKWATER/Special to the AV News)
RBC in Port Alberni raises funds for homelessness

Bread of Life receives $5,000 donation

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Port Alberni collect garbage in the Scotiabank parking lot on Saturday, April 17 as part of a Community Clean Up. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni’s community street clean-up a success

Alberni Aquarium and Stewardship Centre plans ocean clean-up for April 24 and 25

Wounded Warriors runners run along Beaver Creek Road towards the Beaver Creek Volunteer Fire Department hall. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni’s Wounded Warriors stage solo run

Vancouver Island-wide event was cancelled, but Maria Marciano and Dave Nesbitt ran anyway

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five Nuu-chah-nulth Nations celebrate legal victory in fishing dispute

Ha’oom Fisheries Society and T’aaq-wiihak Fisheries announce “major legal victory”

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read