WWII casualty's lost awards returned to daughter

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LOS ANGELES — Hyla Merin grew up without a father and for a long time never knew why.

Her mother never spoke about the Army officer who died before Hyla was born. The scraps of information she gathered from other relatives were hazy: 2nd Lt. Hyman Markel was a rabbi’s son, brilliant at mathematics, the brave winner of a Purple Heart who died sometime in 1945.

Aside from wedding photos of Markel in uniform, Merin never glimpsed him.

But on Sunday, decades after he won it, Merin received her father’s Purple Heart, along with a Silver Star she never knew he’d won and a half-dozen other medals.

Merin’s mother, Celia, married Markel in 1941 when he already was in the military. They met at a Jewish temple in Buffalo, N.Y.

About four months ago, the manager of a West Hollywood apartment building where Merin’s mother lived in the 1960s found a box containing papers and the Purple Heart while cleaning out some lockers in the laundry room, Merin said.

The manager contacted Purple Hearts Reunited, a nonprofit organization that returns lost or stolen medals to vets or their families.

A search led to Merin.

Merin said that in addition to the Purple Heart, the box contained letters and other papers, and her father’s Jewish prayer book.

Merin’s mother was told about the discovery of the Purple Heart but didn’t live to see it — she died Feb. 1 at age 94.

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