Holocaust museum reunites Purple Heart certificate, family of fallen soldier

Reuven Matusevitch
Reuven Matusevitch (Roberth Mathis)

The Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus will on November 13 host a Purple Heart Certificate Reuniting Ceremony honoring a Michigan soldier who perished in World War II.

Also sponsored by the U.S. Army and Purple Hearts Reunited, an organization that reunites lost Purple Hearts with veterans or their families, the event will take place at 1 p.m. and is open to the public. It will include a Color Guard conducted by the Jewish War Veterans.

In 1912, Reuven Matusevitch was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. After graduating college and completing his Lithuanian Army Service, he immigrated to the United States around 1939. He joined his siblings and other family members and changed his name to Robert Mathis. He planned to bring his wife Ida and young child to join him, but they, along with his parents, Mordecai and Rachel, perished during the Nazi invasion around 1941.

After living in the United States for about two years, Tech. 5th Grade Robert Mathis enlisted into the Army’s 36th Combat Engineers and was deployed to defend the infamous beachfront of Anzio, Italy. There, he was killed in action, earning him the honorable Purple Heart. He was buried in Hebrew Memorial Cemetery in Detroit at the age of 31.

More than 70 years later, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Yandura was stationed at the Jerusalem Consulate and discovered Robert Mathis’ Purple Heart certificate there. After months of research, Cadet Jay Choi, a senior in the Loyola Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, located the next-of-kin, Allyse Denmark. During this event, the Purple Heart Certificate, along with the accompanying medal, will be reunited with the Mathis family.

“Technician 5th Grade Robert Mathis left the only home he ever knew and gave his life serving a country that opened its arms to him,” said Cheryl Guyer, Interim Executive Director, Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus. “We are honored to have the opportunity to host this ceremony, which is especially meaningful as it so closely follows Veterans Day, a time where we all want to give thanks to the men and women who fight for our freedom.”

RSVPs are appreciated and can be made by calling the Holocaust Memorial Center at 248-553-2400. Requested attire is business professional for civilians and dress uniforms for military personnel.

The Holocaust Memorial Center will also offer free admission to veterans and their families on November 11, Veterans Day. It is located at 28123 Orchard Lake Rd. in Farmington Hills. Learn more at holocaustcenter.org.

Press release