Routine shattered by old grenades

January 18, 2008 3:43:56 PM PST
An elderly widow in New Castle, Delaware had an unforgettable day, thanks to some mementos her husband kept from his military service. By mid-morning, police were on the 300 block of East Roosevelt Avenue, evacuating her home and 19 others. A military bomb disposal unit was in the woman's home.

Inside a chest in her basement, the woman found two hand grenades and ammunition dating from World War II. They were mementos of a war that her late husband helped win.

"It surprised me that we have them at all," said Chuck Wagner, whose father squirreled the items away and whose mother discovered them during a routine day of cleaning. "He probably forgot about them years ago."

Wagner said that his dad was not only a World War II veteran he had been a beloved neighborhood doctor. He died last Spring at the age of 90.

The family knew about the chest filled with mementos of his military service. But nobody ever expected that dad had grenades and ammo packed away.

"Uniforms and other memorabilia were in there," Wagner said. "Believe me if we knew the grenades were in there, they would have been taken care of a long time ago."

Today's evacuation lasted less than two hours and the bomb unit took the military munitions away to destroy regardless of whether they might be "live." It wasn't worth the risk to find out one way or the other.

Wagner says his mother was surprised by the commotion that her discovery ignited and worried that her neighbors will be upset with her.

But New Castle County Police Corporal Trinidad Navarro says calling people trained in bomb disposal is the right thing to do in such cases.

"These ordinance are designed to blow things up," Navarro said. "So she did the right thing by notifying us and we applaud her for doing that."