Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 11, 2013

Palatine group helps return lost WWII prayer book


Associated Press

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PALATINE (AP) — A lost World War II-era prayer book will find its way back to the family of the American soldier who once owned it, thanks to the help of a suburban Chicago organization.

A tattered version of the "Catholic's Pocket Manual" was first found by a young boy in France in 1944. It belonged to the American soldier James H. Hoban, according The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/XmJvgz ). Years later, the French boy rediscovered it and through several connections, it ended up on the radar of the Palatine Sister Cities Association, which works to promote international ties.

"The story intrigued me," Ken Asmann, a member of the group, told the newspaper. "And I'm retired, so I've got some time on my hands."

The 2-by-3 inch prayer book had pages missing, but there were some written clues, including Hoban's full name and Army service number.

Members of the group spent months combing military records, geological records and public documents, such as old phone books and obituaries.

In the records, they found that when Hoban enlisted in 1942, he had been living in Pittsburgh and working as a metal fabricator. They also found that Hoban had survived the war but died in the 1970s.

The group located Hoban's niece and her son, Martin Hoban, in Pennsylvania. Martin Hoban told the group that his mom didn't talk with James Hoban much, but that she remembered the soldier had fought in the Battle of the Bulge and at one time lived next door to former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney Sr.

The book, for which the Palatine group had a special box made, will be hand-delivered to the Hobans later this month.

"It really is amazing that after 68 years, a little prayer book could find its way back to the family of the man who lost it," Martin Hoban said.