At his Sunrise Beach Village home, Mark Schiffman holds the U.S. Coast Guard dog tag his father lost about 60 years ago on the Jersey Shore. Uncovered by a metal detector on Memorial Day weekend this year, the dog tag was returned to its late owner’s family. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
Sunrise Beach Village resident Mark Schiffman almost ignored a Facebook message that popped up on his phone over Memorial Day weekend.
“I never use the Messenger app from Facebook, but for some reason, I checked this one,” he said.
He’s certainly glad he did.
The message was sent at 9:33 p.m. the previous night regarding Mark’s father, Sylvan Schiffman, a career U.S. Coast Guardsman who died in 2019. It was from Coast Guard member Joseph Franco, who is currently stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape May on the Jersey Shore in New Jersey. Franco found a dog tag just below the sand’s surface while sweeping his metal detector along the shoreline. It belonged to Mark’s father and had been missing for about 60 years.
After unearthing the dog tag, Franco and his wife, Melanie, decided to return it to Sylvan. A quick internet search showed he had passed away. An obituary revealed a lot about the man who lost his dog tag on the beach.
Sy Schiffman was born in Philadelphia in 1933. As a teen, he went to work in his parent’s restaurant, The Nosh, which he took over when his father died. Sy soon sold the restaurant and joined the Coast Guard. He was 21.
He spent the next 21 years as a Coast Guardsman, training at Cape May Station in 1955. He returned to Cape May 10 years later for another stint. Somewhere during those two stops, he lost his dog tag, probably either swimming or sailing, according to Mark.
In 1981, Sy bought a house in Sunrise Beach Village on Lake LBJ, where he settled after retiring. He became active in his Highland Lakes community. He joined the Sunrise Beach Volunteer Fire Department, where he was a member for 18 years, including eight years as the fire chief.
He also served on the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Lake LBJ advisory board and the Central Texas Electric Cooperative board.
After learning about Sy, the Francos sought out his family to return the dog tag. Melanie Franco asked for help in a Cape May Facebook group. Responses came within minutes; the family was found within hours.
The dog tag was dropped in the mail on June 1 and arrived in Mark’s mailbox on June 3 at the same home in which his father had settled years before.
“How amazing is that to get this after all these years — 60 years,” Mark said. “And that it was found on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, that’s even more incredible.”
Once uncovered, Sy Schiffman’s dog tag, lost for six decades, took only six days to find its way home.