WWII trunk of memories returns to family 66 years later

A Knoxville family thought they owned all of their loved one's World War II keepsakes, but they got a call this week that changed that. 1-24-14

When Joyce Tapscott got a call from a Blount County Sheriff's officer, she didn't know what to expect.

"He said, 'I have something that belongs to you. It's a trunk. It's a military trunk,'" Joyce Tapscott of Knoxville said. "It says, 'George A. Zirkle.'"

She thought, "Oh my goodness! It's my father."

The phone call came on Joyce's birthday from Lt. Lee Slagle at the Blount County Sheriff's Office. He had purchased the World War II footlocker from a co-worker who bought it at a flea market.

"If it was my father, I would want someone to give it back to me," Lt. Slagle said.

He planned to turn the footlocker into a coffee table, but couldn't stop thinking about the name stenciled on the top and side. A quick google search led him to longtime Knoxville pediatrician Dr. George Zirkle's obituary.

Lt. Slagle arranged for Joyce to pick it up. Joyce knew for sure it was her dad's trunk when she saw her mother's handwriting inside. Nothing remained inside except a piece of paper listing what was the contents of the trunk.

She knew her mom Louise Zirkle, 94, should be the person to have it. The couple was married for 68 years.

"I couldn't believe it. It brought a smile to my face and then tears down my cheeks," said Louise Zirkle.

The trunk brought back a flood of memories. George Zirkle served as a captain in the Army's medical corp from 1946-1948 in the Philippines.

"What it did for us is we started digging out pictures and talking about memories of him back then," said Joyce.

"I thought of all the great times we had and how unselfish he was. He was the best man that ever lived," said Louise. She reminisced about their courtship during his years at Virginia Tech University and how he missed the birth of their first child.

"He didn't see him until he was two years old," Louise said. Their son, Andy, was born soon after Zirkle landed in the Philippines.

Louise plans to keep the trunk and fill it with keepsakes.

"Mother is at a point in her life where she loves to pull out and look at scrapbooks," said Joyce.

But Louise says even after she is gone, she does not want it to leave their family.

"We are going to keep it forever," Louise said.

After his deployment, Dr. Zirkle finished medical school and started a pediatric practice in Knoxville where his family has lived ever since.

He helped to establish the intensive care nursery at UT Medical Center and fought to establish a children's seat belt law during his long career.

Dr. Zirkle passed away peacefully at his home in March 2012. He was 92 years old.


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