Wisconsin Rapids vet's prized possession arrives a few days too - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Wisconsin Rapids vet's prized possession arrives a few days too late

WISCONSIN RAPIDS (WAOW)-- "He has all the names. Isn't it beautiful," said Shirley Plenge when she saw her husband's engraved artillery shell for the first time. Until Friday, she had only heard stories about the historical relic--stories her husband had told her for the past six decades.

"He'd see somebody else and he'd tell them about the shell and I'd think to myself, 'oh, Ray, are you going to tell that again?' But he did."

Ray Plenge fought in World War ll. When he was stationed in Italy, he had an artillery shell engraved by a jeweler with the names of all the soldiers in his gun unit. But after the war, Ray would never see his shell again.

"As we were traveling North in Italy, the shell disappeared," he told Newsline 9 during the fifth Never Forgotten Honor Flight in September.

A priceless possession, missing for 66 years. It was Ray's life-long mission to get it back. The just last year--a twist of fate. Ray received a letter from a stranger saying he had found a shell engraved with "Plenge" on it.

"He called in June and I didn't know what I was going to do," said Jenifer Nawrocki, a legislative assistant with Congressman Sean Duffy's office. After finding out the shell was in the hands of a woman in Italy, Ray enlisted the Congressman to help him get it back.

After months of negotiation, the shell was finally freed. But, it didn't make it in time.

"Although it's sad that he passed before he could touch it, he did know it was on its way and he died knowing that the shell would remain in his family," said Rachel Duffy, the Congressman's wife. She attended Ray's funeral at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wisconsin Rapids on Friday.

"It kind of feels like the piece that's completing Ray...and now he's able to be here with her," said Nawrocki.

Ray passed just days before his shell was hand delivered to the Plenge family.

Shirley said now that the shell is back in her possession, she's not taking any chances. 

"I don't know where I'm going to keep it...probably in bed with me."

Keeping the memories the shell encases safe and sound, for Ray. 

"I wish he could have seen it, but he knows it's here," she said.

Online Reporter: Bonnie Shelton

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