Veteran searches for long-lost friend

March 5, 2014
Washington natives Robert Yaros and James S. Wright served in the military together but lost contact after leaving the service. Yaros is now searching for Wright to return some photos to him.

Robert Yaros hasn’t seen James S. Wright, a friend and fellow veteran, since they were shipped overseas with the U.S. Army in 1953. Many decades and several wars later, Yaros now hopes to track him down and give him the black-and-white photos he took during Wright’s wedding.

Yaros, 84, of Defiance, Ohio, grew up in Washington and met Wright when they joined the armed services. Yaros graduated from Washington High School in 1948, and believes Wright graduated from Trinity High School around the same time.

They both enlisted in the Army Reserve in Washington and were assigned to a transportation unit on West Chestnut Street. Afterward, they completed basic training at Camp Breckinridge, Ky.

Soon after, Yaros and his wife, Hazel, traveled to Washington, D.C., for the wedding of Wright and his girlfriend at the time, Jane. Yaros said they did some sightseeing after the “quick, easy ceremony,” and he has many photos of the newlywed couple posing in front of monuments.

After their short vacation, “it was back to New York to get on the ship and head overseas,” Yaros said.

Both Yaros and Wright were deployed to Trieste, which Yaros described as “a strip of land about two miles wide and 16 miles long” in northern Italy, near Yugoslavia, that was an important spot in the struggle between the Eastern and Western blocs after World War II. Despite the small area, Yaros and Wright lost touch. Yaros was assigned to the 351st Infantry as a motor corporal, while Wright served in the transportation outfit.

After about 18 months in Trieste, Yaros said both he and Wright were supposed to head back to the reserve unit in Washington. Yaros never made it back to the reserves, and he wasn’t sure if Wright returned to Washington. He has since called everyone in the Washington area listed as James Wright in the phone book, but with no luck.

Yaros focused on his career after the war, moving to several different states. He opened several Kmart stores in Iowa, Ohio and Michigan, then moved to Defiance to open a Murphy’s Mart.

After a prolonged battle, Yaros’ wife recently died from cancer. He rediscovered the photos of Wright and his wife while organizing his belongings.

“I was desperate trying to find him after my wife passed away,” Yaros said. “I took so many pictures in my lifetime … I’ve been trying to catch up on many things that happened in the past.”

Yaros said he still holds out hope that he can find Wright and send the photos to him.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough connections and we kind of lost sight of each other,” Yaros said. “It makes me sad because those pictures would probably be more important to him (and his wife), especially now, if they’re both alive.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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