By Paul Burton

BROCKTON (CBS) – It’s a legacy 74 years in the making and a treasure that even the family of Seaman John Russell Johnson was unaware of was missing; the Purple Heart Award. “It’s still unbelievable. I am still in shock,” niece Cindy Tangstrom said.

Johnson died on December 7, 1941 in the attack on Pearl Harbor, while aboard the USS Arizona. The Brockton native was only 23 years old. “It hurt the family so much they never wanted to talk about it. My grandmother or father never talked about it,” Tangstrom said.

Seaman John Russell Johnson died in the attack on Pearl Harbor (WBZ-TV)

Seaman John Russell Johnson died in the attack on Pearl Harbor (WBZ-TV)

On Monday, at the VFW in Brockton, Johnson’s extended family was given the Purple Heart, which was first presented to Johnson’s wife Eleanor back in 1946. “To pay the price and to find out years later is amazing. A little late but better late than never,” Johnson’s great nephew Wayne Anderson said.

Johnson’s Purple Heart has been at the Brockton VFW for the past 60 years, until a volunteer stumbled across it while she was cleaning out a drawer. “We decided we should find the family because they deserve to have it and it’s such a great award and after two years we found them,” Kinsey Lonegran said.

Francis Johnson says he will keep his uncle’s Purple Heart close to his own heart. “I’m going to find out more about him now that I have a place to start,” Johnson said.

Paul Burton

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