Yarmouth County woman discovers treasured family heirloom's connection to the Olympics

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By Tina Comeau

THE VANGUARD

www.thevanguard.ca

On the one hand, a Yarmouth County woman is pleased that a nearly life-long mystery has been solved. On the other hand, she has a difficult decision to make.

Now that the background of a family heirloom has been uncovered, Vicky Fitzgerald of Abram's River has to decide if she’s going to pass down the treasured heirloom to her family as she had always planned, or whether she will donate it to the U.S. Olympics archives.

The heirloom is a participation medal whose origin dates back to the 1896 Olympics in Athens, Greece, which were the first modern Olympic games ever held.

The medal, which Fitzgerald has had in her possession since her childhood, is now known to be one of the surplus 1896 participation medals that were presented to athletes in the 1906 Olympics – these were athletes that participated in the games but did not make it onto the podium.

"For as long as I've had that medal I've wondered if it was real, and what is was all about," Fitzgerald told the Vanguard, saying she couldn't read the language that the words on the medal were written in, but she always had her suspicions of what it said.

"Just that word that I always knew was Olympic, and now it's verified that it is, I'm very happy. Very, very happy," she said.

The retired Yarmouth County resident says she discovered the medal when she was just seven years old. It was in the pocket of an article of clothing that had been sent to her family as part of a care package. She says she has no idea how it would have ended up in the clothing to start with.

"And of course all of those people are gone," she said.

Based on what is depicted on the front and back of the coin, she always thought it was connected to the Olympics. But through the decades that's all she really knew.

After being contacted by her family, CTV reporter Jayson Baxter took up the search for the family and learned, through Citadel Coins in Halifax and later through the a U.S. Olympic Committee archivist, that it is an Olympic participation medal.

Because very few of these medals exist, the United States Olympics Archives has asked Fitzgerald to consider donating the medal, which would be displayed under her family’s name.

Fitzgerald says she's also been contacted by a museum in Halifax who would like to display the medal, but then it would be given back to her.

"They said they could keep it however long I want, but then I would get it back. But if I donate it to the U.S., I wouldn't get it back."

For the Yarmouth County woman, this medal has held special sentimental meaning for the majority of her life. Fitzgerald told the media that before her father’s death 14 years ago he was surprised to know she still had it. He told her that while he and Fitzgerald’s mother would never know the origin of the medal he knew one day his daughter would discover it.

Fitzgerald says deciding about the medal's future is hard.

"I've had it all this time," she says. "I'm not ready to part with it."

 

Organizations: U.S. Olympics, U.S. Olympic Committee, United States Olympics Archives

Geographic location: Yarmouth County, Athens, Greece Halifax

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  • Mark in Maine
    February 19, 2014 - 13:01

    I'm an American, and I see no reason why she should donate it to the USOC. Maybe give it to the Canadian Olympic Committee if they have a similar museum, but what does the USA have to do with it? Comments are my own.