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After years of searching Goodridge, Minn., man returns WWII vet's watch

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GOODRIDGE, Minn.—A local Goodridge, Minn., man searching for the owner of a watch thought that answers would bring closure, but instead, the mystery continues to tick.

Last week, WDAZ TV featured Bruce Bjerklie.

For the past six decades the Bjerklie family had a watch belonging to the World War II veteran Harold Knutson.

Bjerklie has spent years trying to contact the family, and return the watch.

“I would wake up in the middle of the night and search out Harold Knutson,” said Bjerklie.

After the broadcast, Bjerklie received dozens of calls from across the country, but there was one that truly captivated his attention.

“I didn’t realize it was only going to take 12 hours to find out who this Harold Knutson was,” said Bjerklie.

Perhaps even less expected, the person who contacted Bjerklie were connected by more than just a watch—they shared an area code.

“Only 15 miles from my house,” said Bjerklie.

For year, Bjerklie had actually walked on a name plate honoring Knutson for his service at the Goodridge Veterans Memorial.

“At one time he was underfoot, it's hard to believe that I was that close to him and didn’t know it,” said Bjerklie.

The phone call came from a friend of Bjerklie's who did not know about his efforts—she bought Harold Knutson’s house shortly after he died in the 1980s, and found some military paperwork tucked away in the attic.

“But I thought, military papers, you never know when they may come in handy,” said Donna Parnow.

It had Knutson's U.S. Army serial number on it, which was also on the watch.

“We took the stuff home and read through it kind of put it away and I thought, ‘Well, why am I saving it? I found it in cupboards, put it away, and be like why am I saving this and when I saw the story was like that’s why I’m saving it,” said Parnow.

It turns out, Knutson’s family still lived in the area, and they too were people known to Bjerklie.  

“Kind of mind boggling,” said Bjerklie.

They didn’t even know that the watch existed.

“Nope, not at all, never heard about it,” said Knutson’s nieces.

While Harold Knutson’s family has the watch back, there is still a mystery that is still buried beneath this grave, how did Bjerklie father get possession of the watch in the first place?

“It would be nice to know what exactly had taken place,” said Knutson’s niece.

Harold Knutson served in the U.S. Army in Panama, and Bjerklie’s dad served in the South Pacific.

“Maybe he found the watch, won it in a poker game,” said Bjerklie.

Bjerklie plans research both men's military records to see when they may have crossed paths, but he knows that the answer will never be known.

The Knutson family plans to donate the watch to the local historical society.