By Mike Rush
Festus, MO (KSDK) - Margaret Means is the first to admit her family ties to Ernest Slusher are not the strongest.
"He's my mother's cousin's husband's father," said Means.
Nonetheless, Margaret had met Slusher a few times before his death in the 1950s. She admired him enough to keep a picture of the World War I major in her home and his heroism is a rich part of the family lore.
Stationed in France during the war, Slusher, a doctor, was gassed repeatedly and collapsed.
"After he got to feeling a little better, he went back into battle, although they told him he should not go back into battle," said Means.
Despite his injury and flying bullets, the brave doctor continued treating wounded soldiers. For his heroism, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, shown pinned to his jacket in Margaret's picture, and the French Cross of War.
Although Margaret had inherited some other of Slusher's medals and documents, she never saw those.
"I just figured they'd gotten lost," she said.
And that's where the story could have ended decades ago if Margaret had not opened the paper one June morning last year.
"It's really funny to open the paper and see a picture of your relative," she said.
It was the same picture she had in her home with an article about how the medals were found in an abandoned safe deposit box in Kansas City.
The state was searching for heirs and Margaret is the rightful, surviving heir. Nearly a hundred years after Slusher earned the medals, they are back in the family and Margaret is keeping it that way.
"I passed them to my daughter. So that's their problem," the retired nurse said with a laugh.
It's a problem daughter Mary Eimer is glad to take on.
Eimer said, "I plan to put them all up on a wall in my living room and displaying the medals and, you know, just a history of all of this and other family members too."
At present, 83 military medals and honors remain unclaimed statewide.
Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel says there are $700 million in total assets held with more than four million accounts.
Treasurer Zweifel has returned $117 million to more than 362,000 accounts since January 2009.
Here are some other statistics from the state treasurer's office:
- 1 in 10 Missourians has unclaimed property.
- Average claim is $300.
- Every claim is 100 percent free of charge.
- Unclaimed property operations started in 1985, and became part of the State Treasurer's office in 1993.
- In the St. Louis Region (Crawford, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, St. Charles, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Warren, Washington): $208 million in more than 1.3 million accounts.
To search the Missouri State database to see if you have unclaimed property, go to www.showmemoney.com.