Suitcase “closed:” Rummage relic returned to family of Otto Harthun

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GERMANTOWN (WITI) -- FOX6 News shared a story about a mystery suitcase this week, hoping to locate family members of the original owners. Well, we succeeded -- and now, two families have one great story to tell.

Kurt Harthun got his first look at some unexpected relics from his grandfather's life on Thursday, February 19th.

"This is wonderful. We don't have many memories in our family of my grandfather. There was a little rift in the family. There was a divorce when you didn't say divorce back then. This is a great connection to my past which we just don't have," Kurt Harthun, Otto Harthun's grandson

Kurt Harthun did not know the suitcase existed until a co-worker saw FOX6's story about it on Tuesday. Bob Eastman thinks he picked up the piece at a rummage sale about three decades ago. But he does not remember ever having taken a look inside -- until last week.

"I am really glad that, you know, I didn't just decide to toss this. I'm decluttering, if you want to call it, and I happened to be doing a little electrical work. And I looked up and I saw this case. And I'm like 'that's something I can get rid of,'" said Eastman.

When Eastman peered inside, he found mementos from the 1939 National Association of Letter Carriers' Golden Jubilee Convention. Also inside was a perfectly preserved U.S. Navy uniform with the name Otto Harthun barely visible on the tag. Eastman contacted FOX6 News hoping to find Otto's surviving family members. He allowed us to be there when he handed the suitcase over to Otto's grandson, Kurt.

"Otto was a mail carrier in Milwaukee and he ended up being involved in something called the Old Man's Draft, where because so many people were being drafted in World War II for the European Theater and the Pacific Theater, they started taking older men that had families and jobs," said Kurt Harthun.

Otto Harthun served from 1943 to 1945 in the 113th Seabees as a mail carrier for the Navy. Kurt Harthun sees the suitcase as a way to learn more about the grandfather who passed away when he was only four years old.

"We don't have a real complete picture of the past and this is a great start to completing that picture," said Kurt Harthun.

Kurt Harthun says after his grandfather got out of the service, he came home to Milwaukee and went to work for the postal service. His father followed in his footsteps -- and encouraged Harthun to do the same. But Kurt Harthun instead joined the Milwaukee Fire Department.

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