HAMPSTEAD — One man's passion for finding hidden items with a metal detector turned into another woman's treasure recently when her veteran father's missing World War II dog tag was found and returned to her.

Sixty-three-year-old Joseph Crawford of Hampstead — a member of the Granite State Treasure Hunters and the Hampstead Historical Society — said he was searching the grounds at a friend's home when he came across the tag of Brainard Whiteley on June 15. It was buried six inches deep, but still in good shape, according to Crawford. 

After weeks of searching, Crawford found the veteran's daughter Judy (Whiteley) Dixon, a 72-year-old living in Florida.  Already planning to travel to Maine for vacation, Dixon met Crawford on Monday to retrieve the tag.

"I was teary eyed, and I just couldn't believe this man went through this time and effort to find me," said Dixon, who mentioned Crawford did a "phenomenal job" putting the tag in a shadow box for her. "I'm just, I'm kind of speechless. It feels wonderful (to have) everything coming back together."

Crawford researched the dog tag and discovered it was a World War II series 1, used only between the years of 1941 and 1943. Hoping to pair the tag with the family, Crawford began his search looking up the name "Dustin" as listed on the back of the tag as a next-of-kin.

After finding the Dustins and learning the name was the last name of Brainard Whiteley's sister, Crawford began researching the last name of the tag owner "Whiteley." He then posted a picture on a community Facebook page asking if anyone knew the name, and was sent an obituary of a woman who turned out to be Dixon's mother. This helped Crawford connect the dots to Dixon's father. 

"(I was) flabbergasted," Dixon said of seeing the Facebook post. "My heart skipped a beat, and I saw the caption 'Do you know who these (the tags) belong to?' (and I) enlarged the screen and read my father's name. It caught my breath."

Dixon said her late father came to Hampstead following his high school graduation, after his parents died, to live with his sister. She became his next-of-kin, so her name was printed on the back of his tags when he joined the Army.   

"It felt awesome," Crawford said of reuniting Dixon with her father's dog tag. "(She said) she cried when she saw it on the Facebook (page). And it brought a tear to my eye when I was talking to her like that."