Man gets surprise portrait of WW2 veteran father

71-year-old portrait's cross-country tour
A photo of Lt. Dale Weich. (Kristen Hampton | WBTV)
A photo of Lt. Dale Weich. (Kristen Hampton | WBTV)
(Kristen Hampton | WBTV)
(Kristen Hampton | WBTV)

BELMONT, NC (WBTV) - David Weich didn't have many mementos to remember his father by. Lt. Dale Weich served in the China, Burma, India theater during World War II and passed away in 2005.

David only had a pair of binoculars, his father's Army cap and a few photos. But a few weeks ago, he got a mysterious letter in the mail from a man in California.

"It said 'I'm looking for a relative of a Lt. Weich, and if you're that relative, I have a memento for you,'" David said.

The letter included an e-mail address which David quickly responded to and included a few identifying details about his father.

It turns out, the man from California was Hal Baker, the son-in-law of world famous artist Milford Zornes.

"When Milford Zornes died, they went through pieces of his art and found portraits from the war with only a name and a town. One of the portraits was my father," David said.

Milford Zornes was drafted into the army during WWII and was given the title of official war artist. While serving, Zornes crossed paths with David's father and sketched a stoic, and weathered looking portrait of Lt. Dale Weich.

David was thrilled to get the portrait in the mail. He said it felt like seeing his father again.

"It reminded me of my father when I was a small child, that's how I remember him," David said.

Some of Milford Zornes' paintings and drawings currently sell for thousands of dollars. His artwork hangs in galleries all over the country.

But Hal Baker didn't ask for any money before sending the portrait, he mailed it free-of-charge.

"It means so much to me, he and all the others that went through World War II... they're all heroes," David said.

Lt. Weich served with the famous Merrill's Marauders unit that faced a daunting task in combat. Most of the unit did not survive.

Lt. Weich did, and the portrait of him by Milford Zornes did, too. David is beyond happy to have it, and plans to have it professionally preserved and mounted.

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