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Vet searches for woman in wartime photo

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Dolores Haley's living room can resemble a museum.

The walls are covered with artwork, much of it her own.

Family photos line the halls, mingling with antiques from other countries and odd pieces she's picked up at nearby thrift stores.

"I just love the thrift stores," said Haley, who has gone by 'Johnnie' since she was a girl. "You find the little things that mean something to somebody."

The photo in front of her on Veteran's Day certainly meant a lot to someone during World War II.

A woman gazes off to her left in a black and white photograph.

Her photo has been painted, her eyelashes added with pencil.

"I just saw the picture and thought, 'Oh my goodness!'" said Haley, recalling how she had opened a picture frame she had bought at a nearby thrift store to find the print inside.

She first found the photo 9 or ten years ago, she said, but stumbled upon it again recently and knew she had to take some sort of action.

"If this were my mom, I would give anything for this," she said. "It's a history in itself, to me."

Flip over the photo and history can almost come to life.

Scribbled in neat lines of script is a month-by-month account of a sweetheart's service, beginning January 18, 1942 in Puerto Rico and ending in December in the African country of Eritrea with the words: "Rest for us."

In between are accounts of travels to India and Egypt and at least seven bombings.

"Started flying in B-24's," the writing reads, "lost pilot on Oct. 5 (medical) - lost nerve on Oct. 8 pg being attacked by ME 110 over 5 times - holes over our plane - lost #3 engine, shot 2 110's."

Below the story is presumably the address of the woman in the photo: "Miss Norah Collins, 1219 Northwest 32 Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma."

The people living in the house now do not know of the Collins family, but the 1940 Census indicates a Nora Catheline Collins, 20, did live at that address. (The Census Bureau acknowledges names were frequently misspelled in early surveys.)

Three years later, on Apr. 16, 1943, Oklahoma County marriage records show Norah K. Collins tied the knot with Humphrey B. Hancock.

Hancock, the 1940 Census shows, was counted at Ft. Sill in Comanche.

According to the Military Times, Hancock received a Silver Star for "dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life" during his service in the Ninth Air Force as a part of the 513th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) and 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy).

Haley said reading the accounts on the back of the photo bring back memories for her.

She can remember listening radio reports during the war.

And, she is reminded of her own service during the Korean War, when she worked in an oral surgery department in California.

As a veteran, Haley said, she feels it is especially important to reunite the photo with the family.

"I would feel that I've done something worthwhile," she said, "and, I guess, I would be thrilled if somebody found something of mine like that, especially if it's personal."