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

Nurse Vicki Niemi administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Joyce, 88, on Mar. 23, 2020 at the Terrace Sportsplex. All adults in Terrace are now eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccination. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
All adults in Terrace can now register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Community members can register by calling 833-838-2323 or visiting getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca

April 2020 to March 2021 was the second wettest year on record since at least 1969, according to Environment Canada. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
VIDEO: Terrace records wettest spell in over a half-century

Terrace saw close to 1,500 millimetres of precipitation between April 2020 and March 2021

Terrace fire department responded to a call from Skeena Saw Mills at the early hours of Friday morning. (Binny Paul/ Terrace Standard)
UPDATE: Fire crews respond to early morning incident at Skeena Sawmills

No injuries were reported as mill workers immediately alerted the fire department after seeing smoke

Terrace Tim Hortons on Keith Ave. experienced a fire during the morning of April 4, 2021. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Nature of Tim Hortons fire made it difficult to detect: Deputy fire chief

Fire likely burned undetected inside a wall, resulting in extensive damage

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read