Each year Cathy Scoppo decorates a pavilion at the Cherry Grove Campground in Wolcott. Scoppo keeps patriotic decorations up from Memorial Day to July 4th. In the center of the pavilion, she hung the flag that was placed on her father’s casket. Her father, Michael Crowely, was a World War 2 veteran. Scoppo was just 14 years-old when he died in 1969.
“I have held it very dear to me. It was flying to honor him,” said Scoppo.
On the Thursday after Memorial Day, Scoppo saw the flag was gone. She posted messages on the campgrounds Facebook page wondering if someone had mistakenly taken it down. Cathy did hear back from one of the regular campers.
“She said, I have to send you a text that was sent to my granddaughter. She sent it and it was describing how to steal a flag,” said Scoppo
The text was from a teen who had visited the campgrounds but lived in Willard, Missouri. Scoppo said she got in touch with his family and explained the signigance of the flag but they were uncooperative. A deputy with the Wayne County Sheriffs Department reached out to police in Willard. Corporal Steve Purdy from the Willard Police Department talked with the teen and he admitted taking it. Willard Police Chief Tom McClain said the teen initially told Purdy that he had hidden the flag at the campgrounds but Scoppo and Wayne County Sheriffs determined the teen was sending them on a wild goose chase. Purdy then went back to the teen, warned him that he could face serious consequences and the teen turned over the flag.
“Though I think dilligence on the part of corporal Steve Purdy, tenacity on his part,” said McClain.
Scoppo got a phone call from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy who had been working with the Willard Police Department.
“He said, Cathy have you found your flag? And I said no I have not. And he said – well I did,” said Scoppo as she recounted the phone call. Scoppo said she was so emotional, she had to give the phone to a friend to get the full details. Her father’s flag is now on it’s way back to New York.
Scoppo is grateful for two police agencies 1700 miles apart who understood how important the flag was to her.
“It just touched my heart so to have people, it felt like they took it personal,” said Scoppo.
Scoppo plans to display her father’s flag next year but from now on it will be in a case.