Lost Clayton firefighter’s badge makes its way home

After being found at Florida beach restaurant and then getting stored inside a desk drawer at the Clayton Fire Department, a badge belonging to a retired firefighter found its way home. Thanks to the kindness of a few people along the way.

In 2016, Ray Wright, from Tampa, found a badge in the sand under his table at a beachside restaurant, according to a press release from the Clayton Fire Department. At first, Wright turned the badge into the restaurant’s lost and found. Later, he reconsidered and retrieved the badge from the restaurant.

He tracked down the department and sent it to Kathy Brooks-Manness, an administrative assistant at the department, who discovered it belonged to Roy Weckherlin, who worked for the department from 1943-69 and became was the first fire marshal at the department. He retired and worked for the county health department as an air pollution enforcement and inspection officer.

Brooks-Manness tried to find Weckherlin’s family but was unable. She tucked the badge into her desk drawer.

Recently, Chief John Paul Jones took an interest in the badge and made it his mission to find Weckherlin’s family, the release said. In his spare time, Jones looked through archived news articles and records and found a phone number for some of Weckherlin’s family in Florida.

Eventually, he was connected to Weckherlin’s daughter, Jill Halsey. She would carry the badge of her late father in her purse and said may have lost it during a visit to Florida.

“Retirement badges are meant to pay tribute to the success and sacrifices that members make in their service to the community,” the department said. “That sacrifice is often just not on the shoulders of the firefighter themselves, but also the sacrifices of their spouses, children and extended family. We are happy to return this badge to Jill today to give thanks to her father and their family for their service to the Clayton community.”

Tuesday, Halsey received her father’s badge during a ceremony at the Clayton Fire Department. Chief Paul presented the badge to Halsey. And the man who found the badge in the sand, Ray Wright, joined on the phone.

A reunion made possible thanks to a stranger at a beachside restaurant and employees at the Clayton fire department who would not give up.