Woman looking for owner of family heirlooms recording veteran’s service
BULLHEAD CITY — Lisa Sullivan may have retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, but she still is on a mission.
Sullivan is trying to find the owner of three possible family heirlooms recording the military history of a man named Robert DeMaria.
“I’m trying to find out who these belong to and get them back to them,” Sullivan said as she looked over a collection of photos showing DeMaria’s service in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. “These must belong to someone, right?”
Sullivan’s mission began a few months ago, when a friend told her about the items he had picked up at a sale of belongings left at a Bullhead City home.
“A friend of mine goes to estate sales, rummage sales, those kinds of things,” Sullivan said. “He said he found them at one of those sales. He said he was told someone had been evicted and left them behind.”
Sullivan said she became involved because the friend “knows I would respect (the items) and not just throw them away.”
Sullivan spent 24 years in the Marines. She still is active in local veterans service organizations. She said she sees her quest to find the rightful owners of the memorabilia as a mission to help a fellow soldier.
In addition to the mounted, framed collection of more than a dozen photos, there is a framed letter from President Bill Clinton to DeMaria, thanking him for his lengthly service to the U.S. military. There’s also a framed and mounted copy of DeMaria’s discharge papers covered by broken glass.
Sullivan did a little sleuthing with what information the items provided. DeMaria apparently served in World War II in the U.S. Army with pictures purporting assignments in France, England and Italy. DeMaria is photographed in a U.S. Air Force uniform in a picture dated 1953 — the Korean War era — and apparently remained in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era. He may have been a pilot, or possibly a member of a flight crew, Sullivan said, using a couple of pictures to form that conclusion.
He also may have had a family, although that is only a guess.
“There are two pictures of him with babies,” she said. “Of course, I don’t know if they are his children or if they’re the same baby.”
All of the photos in the collection show DeMaria in military clothing, so there is nothing that led Sullivan in any direction outside the armed forces.
An internet search returned a number of obituaries for men named Robert DeMaria. None, however, listed military service matching that depicted by the photographs.
Sullivan said she has tried the proper channels; she contacted the Air Force and was referred to the local Veterans Resource Center. She tried reaching out to other veterans groups as well, including a local VFW post.
“At the VFW, a very nice guy told me a lot of history,” Sullivan said, “but he couldn’t help me locate DeMaria’s family.”
Because Sullivan is not a family member, the service branches said they could not provide information about DeMaria’s time in the military nor any information about possible next of kin or other survivors.
“So someone said I should come to the newspaper,” she said, explaining why she paid a visit to the Mohave Valley Daily News on Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know what else to do.”
That’s not totally true. She said she will continue reaching out to military organizations, if not for the answers she is seeking then for suggestions on where she might find those answers.
“I’m sure somebody wants this,” she said. “I know if it were mine, or someone in my family, I would.”