Man finds note in Springville home from soldier killed in WWII, returns it to family

Apr 4, 2024, 5:44 PM | Updated: 6:10 pm

SPRINGVILLE — Dorothy Switzer was contacted by a stranger who found something her family had left behind in her childhood home from the 1930s.

Switzer is 100 years old and lived away from Utah for almost 70 years until recently, when she moved in with her daughter, Becky McDonald. So imagine her surprise when she received this letter in the mail.

The letter Steven Park sent to Dorothy Switzer.

Steven Park was working on remodeling this historic home in Springville at 308 North Main Street. Built in the 1920s, the home has stood the test of time. Park is working to turn the place into a coffee and bike shop with his son.

They hope to open Jolly Circle Bike Shop and Darn Good Coffee in May.

“It just reminded me of when I was a kid and my dad would build things like I remember marking like two-by-fours, while he was building and thinking, ‘oh, what if someone sees this in the future?'” Park said.

Many people have left their mark on things, especially during construction. It’s not uncommon to write your name and the date or an “I was here” note, wondering if someone will ever find your name.

That’s exactly what Park found during this remodel.

“It’s like what I would have wanted as a kid is for someone to actually find the note. That’s why you write it so someone can find it,” Park said.

He was knocking out a wall in the bathroom when he noticed a crinkled paper in the debris.

“When I cut that out, the two-by-fours fell apart and the note just fell onto the floor – but this is where the note was,” he said.

Park is a social studies teacher and felt he’d uncovered a little piece of history. He used Family Search and public records to learn about the man in the note – the man who had once lived in this home.

“Family Search had stories,” Park said.

Park discovered that the man who had signed the note, Robert Maughan Barron, had been killed in WWII. But Barron’s only sister, Switzer, was still living. Park kept the letter on his desk – a reminder to reach out to the family. Then, he finally did it.

“Send a letter to let them know that they might be interested to see the note or whatever,” Park said.

Park invited Switzer and her daughter McDonald, to come to Springville to take a look at her childhood home – and get the note he’d found.

Switzer read the note out loud. It states simply, “Robert Maughan Barron Moved in house when nine months old in fall of 1922, placed note here Sept. 6, 1932.”

The letter written by Robert Maughan Barron that was place in the wall of the Springville home.

In 1932, at the time the note was written, Robert Barron — who they call Bob — would have been about 10 years old.

Barren’s life ended abruptly in the mountains of northern Italy when he left a covered position to charge against artillery fire in World War II. His squad ended up capturing 200 enemy soldiers in that charge, but Barren was killed. He was 23 years old.

Robert Maughan Barron was killed in Italy in WWII. (Credit: Melissa Johnson)

“Those mountains in Italy were so steep that they couldn’t drive,” Switzer said. “Bob was leading his troop of men to clean out an ambush – a machine gun nest. Bob was awarded a bronze star for his efforts that day.”

Switzer, her daughter, and her granddaughter all walked through the home that holds so much sentimental value.

The home at 308 North Main Street in Springville today, and in the 1930s.

She told stories about her mother helping them fill up the walled-in front porch area with water in the summer to create a makeshift swimming pool.

“She let us fill it up as high as we could without flooding the house,” Switzer laughed. Many of her childhood memories involved her brother. They were only two years apart in age.

Dorothy Switzer and Robert Barron when they were young in front of the Springville home.

“This was during the depression and everything was hard to come by,” Switzer said. “Mom had a sweater she wanted to make some changes in, so she asked if I would undo the knitting carefully and wind-up the yarn … Then Bob and I discovered that you could pull a whole lot of yarn out at once.”

Switzer said she and Barron ran around the house unraveling the yarn from the sweater. By the time they were done, it was full of twigs and dirt.

“Mom never did get her sweater,” Switzer said.

As she walked through the home, she pointed out different features like an arch her dad installed in her bedroom to put her bed under or the opening to the attic in her parents’ closet.

“I could climb … up that little opening into the attic and get over and walk on the beams carefully and get over here to the front of the house – and open those windows that are up there and wave at people as they went by,” Switzer said.

Switzer hasn’t seen her brother in almost 80 years. Now, she has another small piece of him she can keep forever.

“Oh …Thank you,” Switzer said as Park handed her the letter.

The three generations of women could not believe that Park was able to find their family. McDonald said she felt like her uncle Bob had been her guardian angel all these years and to have this physical note from him was so special.

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Man finds note in Springville home from soldier killed in WWII, returns it to family