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Relative of WWI Cambridge crewman comes forward to claim Purple Heart

Purple Heart (Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola/WikiCommons)

In response to an article published last month in the Chronicle, a Hanson woman has come forward to collect the Purple Heart medal posthumously awarded to her relative, Cambridge’s Francis J. Taylor, who was killed in WWI after his ship was struck by a German torpedo.

The Coast Guard spent five years searching for descendants of those killed on the Tampa, said Nora L. Chidlow, archivist at the United States Coast Guard Historian’s Office. Marybeth Muldowney — Taylor’s great grand niece — contacted the Coast Guard shortly after these efforts were featured in the Chronicle.

“Thanks to your article, we located the great grand niece of Francis Taylor,” wrote Chidlow. “She emailed me after receiving a message on Ancestry from someone who saw your article and did some searching on Ancestry.”

Taylor was one of eight crew members from Massachusetts to have their Purple Heart medals go uncollected because the U.S. Coast Guard has not been able to find any living relatives, Chidlow said. The Coast Guard began posthumously awarding the medals to crew members of the Tampa in 1999, according to the Historian’s Office website. About 40 Purple Heart medals have been awarded so far, and more are being processed, Chidlow said.

Muldowney must provide proof of lineage before she can receive Taylor’s Purple Heart.

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Muldowney said in a Facebook message that her family is honored to be receiving her great grand uncle’s Purple Heart. She said Taylor was her grandmother’s best friend when they were young.

“My grandmother was devastated by her brother Frankie’s death,” Muldowney said. She had given birth to my mother in October of 1917 and said she longed to have her brother meet her beautiful daughter, but unfortunately that was not to be as he was killed in 1918 without getting home in between.”

“She never really healed from the grief of losing her best friend, as you could hear in her voice recanting the tales of their youth and her receiving notice of his death,” Muldowney added.

Muldowney said she had always thought Taylor served on a submarine, and it wasn’t until reading the article in the Chronicle that she discovered her great grand uncle served on the U.S.S. Tampa.

“Both my brother and I were very surprised that Frank was on a ship, not in a submarine,” Muldowney said. “I guess we had misunderstood and appreciated the clarification in [the] article and the Coast Guard historical account — we always thought he died in a submarine not as a ‘submarine chaser.'”

She added that Taylor wasn’t the only family member killed while serving in the military.

“My mother’s first husband, Guy A. Cardillo, was killed in action on the road to Anzio in Italy in WWII,” Muldowney said. “He was father to my half brother, Stephen. We had the same mother.”

“There is an Army Reserve Center in Roslindale on American Legion Highway (where he grew up a few doors away) named in his honor,” Muldowney said. “He, too, was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. My mother was the president of the Gold Star Wives at one time, too.”

Once she provides the Coast Guard with the necessary documents to prove her lineage, Muldowney is hoping to hold Taylor’s Purple Heart ceremony at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Muldowney’s mother, father and uncle all worked at the Navy Yard.

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