Deb Robinson’s father passed away nearly five years ago, but the Silver Creek woman was united this week with a piece of his past – his old military identification tags.
Edwin “Eddie” T. Konwinski served in the Navy from 1956 to 1958, shortly after graduating from high school in Silver Creek.
Eddie and his brother Joe both graduated the same year, 1955, Deb noted.
“His brother was a year or so younger but when he started school, they didn't have kindergarten so they put his brother with him,” Deb said. “They went into the service, were on the same ship and everything.”
The brothers were based out of Norfolk, Virginia, and had served on the USS Wren.
“I think Dad said he was a fireman, his brother was in the boiler room of the ship,” Deb said.
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Although he had served in the Navy, she said, Eddie didn’t know how to swim.
Deb noted she once asked him about that.
“He goes, ‘well, they just threw us off the ship; you just swam or sank,’” Deb said. “I think he enjoyed it. They weren't in combat or anything, it was peacetime.”
Pat, Deb’s husband, added there had been a delay in the brothers’ discharge from service.
“They spent another six or eight weeks at sea because they were looking for a lost ship, so their crews got to do one more circle,” Pat said.
After he left the service and came back to Silver Creek, Deb said, Eddie worked several different jobs, including with Grosch Irrigation in Silver Creek and BD in Columbus and as a truck driver. He eventually retired and had been living in Florida at the time of his passing in April 2018.
Eddie was buried at sea on May 17, 2019, off of Norfolk, Virginia.
“He wanted to always be buried at sea,” Deb said. “We had him cremated … we shipped him back and they (the Navy) took him out and buried him at sea for us.”
Pat noted that Eddie had been an avid card player.
“He loved taking videos from the time there was VHS and Beta, and we had lots of videos that, ‘gee, where we find a machine to play this?’” Pat said.
Deb described her dad as having a sense of humor while Pat said Eddie also enjoyed polka dancing and drinking beer.
“He also had a very avid love for old tractors and machinery,” Pat said. “He had quite a collection until he moved to Florida.”
Deb added her father had restored them, too.
A long time ago, Deb said, she had inquired about his military identification tags – commonly called dog tags – as she always thought it would be nice to pass them down through the family.
“I asked him years ago ‘where are your dog tags?’ And he goes ‘I have no idea.’ He goes ‘I lost those way back,’” Deb recalled.
Fast forward to 2023. Last week, The Columbus Telegram employee Barb Graham had just parked her vehicle along 12th Street, outside of the Telegram office, when she noticed something strange in the street – a pair of old dog tags with the name Edwin T. Konwinski inscribed on them.
The tags were found in a small, clear baggie. Thinking someone had dropped them on the way to a downtown business, Telegram staff posted a photo of the dog tags on the newspaper’s Facebook page on March 10 and asked for help in finding the owner of the tags.
Deb said her cousin sent her a screenshot of the Telegram’s post, and Deb and the Telegram then connected through Facebook. Deb was united with her dad’s dog tags on March 15.
Eddie’s siblings are now all deceased. According to Joe’s obituary, he and his wife lived in Columbus for a while before moving back to Silver Creek where they owned a bar for a number of years. Joe had also worked at BD and FLEXcon in Columbus. Joe passed away in 2012.
Deb said she is going to ask her nephew if he wants them, along with the cartridges fired from Eddie’s burial at sea. Deb and Pat had the cartridges engraved with the years of Eddie’s birth and death.
If her nephew does not want the dog tags, she added, she might carry them around with her in a 1963 vintage car that she recently purchased. Deb noted she would put the tags on a chain and hang them in the car or put the tags on a keychain.
If Eddie were still alive today, Deb said the appearance of his dog tags would be quite a shock.
“He would just say, ‘oh my God!’” Deb added. “He wouldn’t believe it.”
Pat said, with a chuckle, that Eddie would most likely exclaim a few choice words that a newspaper can’t publish.
“He'd be happy to have them back, I'm sure, because he was pretty proud of being in the Navy,” Deb said. “…He had a great big picture he always had on his dresser of his ship.”
Hannah Schrodt can be reached at email@example.com.