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Howard Fay was a quiet, humble man who didn't talk much about the horrors he had lived through during World War I.

So Fay, who died in 1959, probably would have been uncomfortable being the center of attention when the Purple Heart he earned in France 86 years ago was presented to his family this week by Allegany County officials.

Deborah Aumick, Fay's granddaughter, credits H. Scott Spillane, county director of veterans services, with obtaining the medal, along with the Victory Medal. Both were presented to Phyllis Young, Fay's daughter.

Fay was gassed by the Germans in June 1918 in the Argonne Forest in France, spent six weeks in a hospital in France and then was shipped back to the front lines, Aumick said.

Fay, a Scio resident, died at age 64 of stomach cancer, and the family always wondered if his being gassed had something to do with his death, she said.

At his funeral, Frank Mason of Wellsville told the family that Fay had saved his life by carrying him to safety after he was shot.

"He didn't talk about the war and wasn't the type to have pursued (the medal) on his own," Aumick said. "I just felt my mother should have it to honor him."

She said the family has a letter from his commanding officer commending Fay for his service.

Fay was drafted in 1917, when he was 22, and after the war returned to work in the oil fields. He married Margaret White in 1920, and they had two daughters.

Aumick said the family knew Fay had been gassed but it wasn't until a Purple Heart stamp was issued last year that she began thinking he was entitled to one.

Aumick, who is the county Youth Bureau director, mentioned it to Spillane, who helped her navigate the government bureaucracy. "I was really impressed that the government came through in only a few months when you consider they were searching records that are almost 100 years old," she said.

The medal arrived recently, and it was decided to make a formal presentation -- at which three generations of the family were present -- in connection with Veterans Day on Thursday.


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