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Vancouver Island man desperate to find great-uncle’s dead man’s penny

‘People I love saved these things for me and I lost them’
Mike Aldridge is on the hunt for his late great-uncle’s “death penny” lost some time during travels between Victoria and Gabriola Island. The uncle’s name, Samuel Richard Aldridge, is on the face of the coin. (Courtesy Mike Aldridge)

Devastated at the loss of irreplaceable family mementos, Mike Aldridge blames himself.

The Gabriola Island man is losing sleep he can’t afford to lose as he searches for medals and a death penny accidentally dropped at some point during a drive home from Greater Victoria.

Aldridge traveled south for a hospital appointment on Tuesday, Dec. 12 and returned home. The next day he realized a vinyl bag containing several family mementos was missing.

“I didn’t realize until Wednesday. I had actually forgotten I had it with me. Then I remembered it was in my van. I opened the door of my van and it must have dropped out,” Aldridge said.

In hindsight, he recalls it potentially falling from the passenger door at some stop along the way. Aldridge, who has a sleep disorder, isn’t positive when or where it dropped out of the passenger door.

“I haven’t really entered a deep sleep for about three years,” Aldridge explained. “So I forget things. Sometimes I’m frazzled. Sometimes I’m just a mess in my head.”

The items are in a bag made of recycled vinyl, primarily black with blue and bits of white and red. The key identifier is the strap, made of a seat belt with a GM belt buckle as the clasp.

Inside are a leather folder with medals and “death penny” of his late great-uncle Samuel Richard Aldridge, who died “in the mopping up battles after Vimy Ridge.” The First World War coin is actually a small plaque issued to the next-of-kin of service personnel killed. At 120 mm in diameter and cast in bronze, they became known as a dead man’s penny.

“My grandfather talked to me about these things. Every April 28, which is when his brother died, he got those things out and he cried,” Aldridge said.

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The grandfather was nine when he lost one brother to war, and worried about another - Aldridge worries over his role in the loss.

“People I love saved these things for me and I lost them. I feel ashamed, I feel guilty, I feel so sad.”

Back in Victoria visiting for the holidays, Aldridge is expanding the search by reaching out to others who may come across the items themselves – coin collectors, pawn shops and stores that sell collectibles.

He’s also offering a reward up to $500 for the coin and $750 for all of it, above the going rates for online sales of the items.

Anyone with information can email

“I’m trying everything I can think of,” he said. “I’m going to reach out to the police again. I know a lot of departments that have officers that go through pawn shops periodically.”

Alternatively, Aldridge has a file started with police departments between Victoria and his home on Gabriola Island and anyone can drop off the items at their local station.

“I really desperately want them back. They are my most meaningful mementos from my family’s history and they’re irreplaceable.”


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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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