Amy Maybury has made a career of finding lost treasures and selling them in her booth at the Mansfield Antique Mall. The biggest treasure she ever found, though, she didn’t sell. She didn’t even keep it.
In May, Maybury won an online auction for a Mansfield storage unit that was delinquent on its payments. She was busy with a sale at the antique mall, so her husband went to sort through the unit and see what they had bought for $80. Buyers purchase the units without being allowed to go through the contents.
“We always give back the personal items, the photos and documents,” Maybury said. “We put them in a bag and give to the storage unit manager.”
Among the pictures and toys, Matthew Maybury found a small case and said he knew immediately that it was a military medal. When he opened the box, he found a Purple Heart and a photo with a description of the man who died earning it -- Clifford Audinet, born Dec. 19, 1918 and killed in action April 26, 1945, in Italy.
The Purple Heart medal is the oldest military medal awarded to members of the United States armed forces who are killed or injured during their service.
“He brought it up here and showed it to everybody,” Amy Maybury said. “They said ‘that is worth a lot of money.’ We were told some were made of real gold. I could have sold it immediately. There are avid military collectors.”
But Maybury knew immediately that she wouldn’t.
“I said ‘We’re not keeping it, we’re giving it back,’” she said.
Five years ago, Maybury’s home was burglarized and her grandfather’s memorabilia from his time in the Army serving in World War II and Korea was stolen.
“The man convicted said he threw it all away,” Maybury said.
She was crushed, and wanted to get the Purple Heart back to Audinet’s family. But first they had to find them. The couple went online and discovered a book, “K.I.A.,” written about Audinet by his son, Patrick, who didn’t know his father’s story until he started researching when he was 55. Audinet was only a year old when his father left for World War II, and never came back.
“When I reached out to Patrick Audinet, he said the original (Purple Heart) was lost for decades,” Matthew Maybury said. “When he went to start digging in the ‘90s, he requested a replacement medal. During the research, he located the original and gave the replacement to his daughter. She lost it in the storage unit due to financial problems. It is a true Purple Heart.”
The couple contacted Audinet, who was very grateful and offered to pay them, Amy Maybury said.
“He thanked us profusely and we mailed it back to him,” she said.
Audinet did not respond to a request to comment on the story. Matthew Maybury did get confirmation that Audinet received the medal.
Matthew Maybury said that selling and purchasing military medals is frowned upon, but is done.
“Just the box is worth $50,” he said. “I found one (Purple Heart) on eBay for $250-$300. I know I could have made that much.”
And that’s a lot of money for a single sale, Amy Maybury confirms, but not something that they considered.
“It didn’t belong to us,” she said. “He died serving our country. I’m glad (his son) got it back.”