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Wallet lost during WWII returned

World War II veteran Eligio Ramos, 91, sees the wallet he lost overseas for the first time in 70 years. It was found by an Austrian man who owns a farmhouse where Ramos's battalion took shelter. (Source: KFSN/CNN) World War II veteran Eligio Ramos, 91, sees the wallet he lost overseas for the first time in 70 years. It was found by an Austrian man who owns a farmhouse where Ramos's battalion took shelter. (Source: KFSN/CNN)
Ramos is seen here, back row, fifth from left, with his battallon in 1945. (Source: U.S National Archives) Ramos is seen here, back row, fifth from left, with his battallon in 1945. (Source: U.S National Archives)

MADERA COUNTY, CA (KFSN/CNN) - A wallet lost overseas during World War II is now back in the hands of a veteran in the Fresno, CA area. That veteran and his family recently got the surprise of a lifetime when they learned the wallet had been found.

Eligio Ramos has seen more in his 91 years than many can even imagine, including the bloody battlefields of WWII, where he fought with the 250th Field Artillery and helped liberate starving prisoners.

But one thing Ramos never expected to see again was the wallet he lost when his battalion took shelter in an Austrian farmhouse in 1945.

Ramos’s son, Rosando, knows his father’s wartime stories.

“They went through so many little villages and stuff, and he didn’t even think about the wallet anymore,” Rosando Ramos said. ”They had other problems on their hands, so the wallet was very minimal.”

But a letter than arrived in the mail on June 18 suddenly made it significant, said Ramos’s daughter, Sylvia Gonzalez. Her dad was eating breakfast when she first read the letter.

“And I go, ‘Look, Dad, they found a wallet and it’s for you, and they’re looking for you,'” Gonzalez said.

The letter came from Dr. Josef Ruckhofer, whose late grandfather owned the farmhouse in Salzburg where the soldiers had stayed. Ruckhofer found the wallet while removing some old wooden planks, and then searched online for Ramos based on his old Army ID card.

“I was looking for the whole U.S., and I found one with the birth year there in California,” Ruckhofer said via Skype, “and I thought the name was right, and the birth year is right, so if he’s still alive, I will try my luck and send him a letter.”

Ruckhofer was excited to receive a response, and he soon shipped a small box containing the priceless cargo.

After the family waited for weeks, the wallet arrived at Ramos’s Madera County home, marking the end of a 6,000-mile journey. Now it’s back in his hands for the first time in 70 years.

“I would like to thank the man,” Eligio Ramos said of Ruckhofer.

The leather wallet is weathered, but still intact. It was filled with dozens of family photos.

Several relatives - including those in the pictures -  gathered at Fresno’s VA Hospital Tuesday to share in this unexpected reunion.

Ramos’s children say this lost-and-found treasure will be cherished for generations to come.

"This wallet, if it could only talk, Rosando Ramos said of his father’s long-lost belonging. “It's been through a lot, so we're going to frame everything that was inside - all the pictures, all the military paperwork he had in there. Everything will be on exhibit at our house."

Copyright 2015 KFSN via CNN. All rights reserved.

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