Former Calhoun resident Robert "Red" Stump, three time Purple Heart recipient, has died in Ohio, but his death was thought to have occurred much earlier by an old army buddy, the story featured on a TV series "It's a Miracle" in 2001.

(Obituary appears on Herald 12/13/05)

The story, recalled and dramatized on the TV show:

For fifty-two years, Robert Adkins thought his best friend, Roy "Red" Stump, was dead.

After all, hadn't he cradled his dying friend's head in his lap and then watched a medic remove his dog tags?

"Everyone in the platoon was sure Roy was dead," Robert recalled one day in April 1996 as he chatted with a stranger in a waiting room at Lorain Community/ St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Lorain, Ohio. Robert was waiting for his wife, Juanita, to return from cataract surgery. In the waiting room, the conversation somehow turned to World War II.

"We were stationed in Holland and were watching a buddy defuse an anti-tank mine when it blew up," Adkins said.

The man working on the mine was killed, and shrapnel struck Stump in the head, chest, and other parts of his body.

As they continued to talk, Robert, now seventy-two years old, was astonished to learn that the stranger, like him, had served in the 787th Anti-Aircraft Battalion in 1944.

Skeptical about the coincidence, they began grilling each other, as a test. "Who was the platoon sargeant?" Robert asked the stranger. The man answered correctly. "Was anyone killed in that battalion?" he shot back.

"I just told you, my best buddy, Roy D. Stump," Robert replied. The man smiled and said, "I hate to disappoint you, but I am very much alive."

Robert sat stunned. "I thought he was going to have a heart attack," Stump remembered.

"I hadn't recognized him at first, but I knew who he was as soon as he said his nickname was 'Sloop.' Mine was 'Little Red.' I had bright red hair then," said Stump, stroking his gray crewcut.

To prove his identity, the seventy-one-year-old Stump produced a faded copy of his discharge papers and a driver's license with his name on it.

Then the two men hugged and "everybody in the waiting room thought we were crazy," Robert said.

Miracle or coincidence?

Miracle that one man presumed dead had, in fact, survived; or coincidence that he happened to meet his best friend over fifty years later?

How do you explain such things in life?