Albert Frost died on Jan. 14, 2017. It was his 100th birthday, a good run.
Albert had graduated early from his class at the Coast Guard Academy. So had everyone else that year. They were the Class of 1942 but were set loose in December of 1941 after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. A few months later, Albert was on a troop ship, transporting soldiers to Guadalcanal.
Frost served more than 30 years in the Coast Guard, a career that included a voyage in 1957 up the Potomac commanding the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Unimak. It was a ceremonial trip, and what Albert remembered most about it was the congressional delegation that was aboard.
The Potomac may not be a storm-tossed sea, but it can be a tricky sail in a big ship — all those bridges — and the politicians seemed to be forever underfoot, another distraction for the captain.
Still, the trip was a success, and for his efforts Albert was given the key to the city of Washington. It was brass and in a box marked “Presented to Commander Albert Frost, USCGC Unimak, Washington, D.C. July 26, 1957.”
In the latter category was a suitcase. It probably just held sheets and pillowcases, the couple thought, but it needed to be examined all the same.
“My wife thought I had gone through it,” John told me. “She thought I had gone through it.”
Neither had. Off to Goodwill it went.
Last week, Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Schafler, the Coast Guard’s liaison to the District of Columbia, got an email from Gary Thomas, executive director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History. Gary and a colleague, John Kauza, like to scour online auction sites looking for Coast Guard memorabilia. At ShopGoodwill.com — which assembles the best stuff from Goodwill stores across the country — they had found a key to the city of Washington along with a set of Coast Guard uniform ribbons. They were thinking of placing a bid on it.
In the office across from Jonathan, on the old St. Elizabeths campus, sat Capt. John Barresi.
Jonathan called him to his computer and said, Get a load of this old key given to a Coast Guard commander.
Then it clicked: A few days earlier, an email had gone out seeking volunteer pallbearers for the funeral of Albert Frost. The funeral would take place at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday. It was Wednesday.
Could they get the key in time?
Original Article: John Kelly, The Washington Post