Dog tag returned

Tracy McLoud, left, presents Perrie Bigham with the World War I dog tag of Bigham’s father, William L. Villines.

There were a lot of surprises for everyone in the case of the recovered World War I dog tag of U.S. Army Pvt. William Larkin Villines.

First, Tracy McLoud of Belton was surprised when her metal detector led her to dig up the disc. She’d been over that ground before, she said.

Then, she was surprised when, with the help of her sister, Stacy McLoud, and a friend, Roxann Patrick, she was able to identify the owner of the dog tags and locate his daughter, Perrie Bigham, 85, who lives in Temple.

Bigham was pretty surprised herself.

“I’m the last survivor of the family,” she said. “I don’t know how they found me. I was shocked when she called me. I had a nephew with the same name who was in the Marines. I thought it was him. But she said it was World War I.”

Please see TAG, 3A

On Saturday afternoon, McLoud and Patrick paid Bigham a visit, told the whole story and gave her the dog tag.

“I was born in 1936, so I didn’t know anything about World War I,” Bigham said, adding that her older brother, Charles, was in World War II.

“He never was OK after it,” she said.

Bigham said her daughter, a chemistry professor in Fort Worth, sent her an embarkation document with Villines’ name on it. Tracy McLoud looked at it and said she thought it marked young Villines’ passage from France to New York.

“I’m very humble that she took the time to find me,” Bigham said. “I’m excited about that. I’m going to put it in some kind of little case to preserve it.

She and her husband, Edney, who died 12 years ago, raised six children, she said, so she was pretty much a mom and housewife. Known as “Corky,” her husband was an advertising manager for the Killeen Daily Herald.

Tracy McLoud said that when she first cleaned the dirt off the dog tag, she thought it might be from World War II. She said she found it near the railroad tracks, where there are no streets or houses.

Bigham said her father worked for the railroad and lived in a lot of different places. He was foreman of the gang that fixed the tracks, she said. Later he was promoted to track supervisor and rode “those open motor cars.” He died at age 61 of lung cancer.

“My dad wanted to be a pro baseball pitcher, and he was really good,” she said.

He always talked about Bob Feller and other great pitchers, she said, but he was the oldest son and when his father died he felt responsible for the rest of the family.

“I just think my dad had a hard life,” she said.

Tracy McLoud said she’s always been into history.

“That’s fascinating to me when I find something that someone touched a long time ago,” she said.

“That’s the most valuable thing I’ve found,” she said of the dog tag. “That means the world to me.”