Audrey Garcia

Audrey Garcia holds a flag Ray Mohr brought back for her from her brother's grave site in Normandy. World War II veteran Ray Mohr decided to make a trip back to the beaches of Normandy where he participated in the the early battles of the French invasion. Like his first trip, his return trip also had a mission. Finding the grave site of his neighbor's brother. His neighbor at East Penn Housing, Audrey Garcia, asked him to find the grave of her brother, Joseph Ellwood, who was killed on Aug. 1, 1944. No one from her family was ever able to go visit the site, so Mohr went in their place, placing flowers, saluting and returning with pictures from the journey to a tearfully grateful Garcia. (CESAR L. LAURE/TMC / May 23, 2007)

Some of Audrey Garcia's fondest childhood memories are of the times her brother, Joseph, carried her on his shoulders from Fullerton Avenue across the Fourth Street bridge into Allentown to see Shirley Temple movies at the Franklin Theater on Tilghman Street.

Her most painful memory is of the day two men in Army uniforms came to tell her parents that Pvt. Joseph Ellwood had been killed in France.

The Army messengers waited in the backyard, pushing young Audrey, then 13, on her swing. They waited to break the news to her parents until her father, William, arrived home from work. Mr. Ellwood stopped the family's living room clock, declaring that its hands would never move again.

''My heart was broken that day,'' said a tearful Garcia, now 76. ''I still can't get over it. That's why my mother made sure that I got his Purple Heart.''

Closure was one thing that she and the other members of the Ellwood clan never could get. Ellwood enlisted in the Army shortly after he graduated from high school in October 1943. His death came less than 11 months later.

Like thousands of other American GIs who were killed helping to liberate France from the Nazis, Pvt. Ellwood was buried there. But the family never had the means to cross the Atlantic to visit his grave, nor did they opt to bring the body home. Through the mists of time, they were even uncertain of the precise location of his burial site, though Garcia knew that his body was in France.

Enter Raymond Mohr, honored this past week by the Lehigh County Office of Aging and Adult Services at its seventh annual ''Tribute to Unsung Heroes.'' The 88-year-old told those honoring him that thinking about others rather than himself is what has kept him young.

The unassuming but usually smiling Mohr volunteers at the Lehigh Center nursing home in Lower Macungie where his wife, Clara, who has Alzheimer's disease, is a resident. And he volunteered to do something simple but extraordinary for Garcia, whom he only recently met.

''Everyone in the building loves Ray,'' said Garcia. ''He has a heart of gold. Not every husband would go and visit his wife in a nursing home every day for five-and-a-half years. We all have so much respect for him.''

Mohr said he long harbored a wish to revisit Normandy. The former radio operator with the 29th Infantry Division landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944, the day after the largest sea-to-land invasion in military history began.

Mohr said his family did not take his designs on a trip to France seriously. ''Nobody believed me until I got my passport last December and then they started to take notice,'' he said.

When Garcia, one of his new neighbors at the East Penn Place senior housing apartments in Emmaus, learned of Mohr's plans, she asked him for a favor: Find her brother's grave. The former Army technician happily volunteered.

Carrying out the mission would not be easy, however. The circumstances of Pvt. Ellwood's death were unknown to Garcia. All Mohr had to go on was his name.

On the date of his death, Aug. 1, 1944, Ellwood's regiment -- the 36th Armored Infantry -- was attached to the 3rd Armored Division and engaged in a fierce battle with German units at Villedieu-les-Poeles, a town about 175 miles west of Paris.

The town might best be known for what many believe is an apocryphal story about Ernest Hemingway, who covered the war for Collier's Weekly. It has been written that after American soldiers marched through the town, he tossed three grenades into a cellar where, townspeople had told him , German SS officers were hiding.

Though the details of Ellwood's death are unknown, at least to family members, he probably died there. The 36th Armored Infantry Regiment had only been in France for a little more than a month.

That same day, Mohr's 29th Infantry Division was preparing to engage Germans nearly 200 miles east near Rousseville. The 29th saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war in Europe, suffering more than 20,000 casualties in less than a year of combat.

Mohr doesn't brag about his service or his four battle stars. But his pride was evident when he showed pictures of his trip, which included a visit to the monument to his unit. It was erected on a concrete bunker from which German soldiers fired on advancing Americans on Omaha Beach.

Mohr's grandson, Jeffrey Lindenmuth Jr., who had been to France before, made the trip arrangements and accompanied his grandfather on the five-day journey. To find Ellwood's grave, Mohr and Lindenmuth enlisted John Flaherty, a Briton who runs Hand Made Tours and a bed and breakfast in the Normandy town of Fierville-les-Mines. With Flaherty's help, Mohr found Ellwood's grave in Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial in St. James, about 80 miles from Flaherty's inn.