WWII Veteran Receives $48,000 in Donations After Being Scammed

Three months ago, WWII veteran Jack Holder lost nearly his entire life savings in a sweepstakes scam.

On Tuesday, the 94-year-old WWII veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor got all his money back and more through a GoFundMe page that was created for him after his story was told in The Arizona Republic.

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Jack Holder and Ruth Calabro (Photo: Cheryl Evans The Arizona Republic)

Over the Memorial Day weekend, over $48,000 was raised through donations to the web page.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said Holder at his house in Sun Lakes. “How in the world will I ever repay people for their graciousness?”

After losing his money, the WWII veteran and his fiancée believed they would have to live off their Social Security incomes.

“I’d never even heard of GoFundMe. I didn’t know they existed,” said Holder. “I’m in shock.”

After reading about Holder’s story, Shana Schwarz, a 33-year-old mother of three, set up the GoFundMe page for Holder and promoted it through social media as a way to thank Holder for his service.

“I’m out of work right now,” said Schwarz. “I only donated $25. But I knew I was good with fundraising and I am good with social media. So that’s what I did.”

Schwarz’s GoFundMe page was first shared by The Arizona Republic then by several veteran organizations before it appeared on local news and eventually CNN.

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PBY Catalina. The type of plane that Jack Holder flew in during WWII

On Monday, Schwarz presented Holder with a check for the first $19,000.

“It was amazing meeting him,” Schwarz said. “We both cried. I’ve been crying on and off all weekend.”

Schwarz turned over the GoFundMe page to the Greatest Generations Foundation, a non-profit veteran’s organization based in Denver. “If this had happened to my grandfather, I’d want people to step up,” she said.

Last March, the WWII veteran and his fiancée, Ruth Calabro received several calls notifying him that he had won $4.7 million and a new Mercedes-Benz in the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

Holder was instructed to open a new back account where the crooks deposited $43,000. He was then told to forward the money to addresses in New York and New Jersey to avoid tax liabilities.

A week later, he discovered the $43,000 was actually taken from his personal savings account. He quickly filed reports with the FBI, local police and Bank of America, but realized he had little chance of seeing his money again. He went public with his story to warn others about the scam, and never expected such an outpouring of support.

“Maybe you can put it in words I can’t find to tell people how grateful I am,” Holder said, adding that the donations have helped restore his faith in people. “It just goes to show you.”

During WWII, Jack Holder was a flight engineer on a Navy PBY Catalina. He was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, flew at the Battle of Midway and Guadalcanal and after being transferred to England, flew missions over the English Channel.

When asked if he would ever respond to another sweepstakes entry, he replied, “Even if I get something in the mail, I’ll throw it away.”

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