Sunday, September 12, 2010

Treasures From The Past...!

You just have to love these stories about long lost things returning from the past!

This kind of story, from the Chronicle, just shows that with a little help from Providence all things are possible!

Lost WWII briefcase sent from Ohio to Texas

© 2010 The Associated Press / The Cincinnati Enquirer
Sept. 11, 2010, 1:04PM

CINCINNATI — Amanda Parker-Wolery was 8 when, on a family vacation in Washington, D.C., her family stumbled upon a battered briefcase filled with World War II memorabilia near the Lincoln Memorial.

Two decades later, Parker-Wolery still remembers how her stomach knotted at the idea of somebody desperately searching for the love letters, old maps and photos that were stuffed inside. Her family unsuccessfully tried for more than a year to find the owner.

Life shoved the mystery to the back burner.

She grew up. Her mother died of cancer. She got married.

But Parker-Wolery never forgot about the bag.

"I always had a feeling in my stomach that this was somebody's life and it doesn't belong to us," said Parker-Wolery, an art teacher who lives in Cincinnati.

Over Labor Day weekend, while cleaning out a shed at her father's home in Mayville, N.Y., where he moved after his wife's death, Parker-Wolery uncovered the silver-buckled, black, plastic briefcase.

It was musty and falling apart. But, the contents remained unscathed.

"It always stuck with me as something I had to do, find the owner," Parker-Wolery said.

This time — thanks to the Internet — it took less than an hour to find Deborah Dean, a 57-year-old Texan and the daughter of the briefcase's owner, Gerald J. Amirault. He died in 1989.

Parker-Wolery called Dean last Saturday.

Dean said she's still in shock.

"I thought I'd never see it again," said Dean, of Hurst, Texas. "The police told me I probably wouldn't either." But the briefcase is in the mail, sent by Parker-Wolery on Wednesday.

The saga started in 1990.

After Amirault died, Dean and her family trekked across the country to Maine, to visit her aunt. Dean hoped she could shed some light on the woman who wrote the love letters to Dean's father.

On the way there, the family stopped in Washington, D.C., where their car was broken into. The thieves took everything — the family's $2,500 in travelers checks, their clothes and the briefcase.

The family still went to Maine, but without being able to look at the documents or pictures, her father's sister couldn't help.

Over the years, Dean has tried to track her father's history, but the job proved impossible. Everything she knew about her father's past was in that briefcase. He never spoke of the war. All she knew was that he served on the front lines in Europe.

Meanwhile, unable to find the owner, Parker-Wolery's mother tucked the briefcase away. She died of cancer 11 years ago. It was put into a Rubbermaid tub, carted to one house and then another. And then to that house's shed.

Parker-Wolery uncovered it while sorting her mother's belongings. She turned to her dad and vowed to find the owner.

After driving back to Ohio last Saturday, she spread the contents of the briefcase on her living room floor.

There were maps of Europe, yellowed, curling at the edges.

A faded black-and-white photo of a young man. The photo wasn't dated.

A luggage tag, suggesting he carried that briefcase with him while in Europe.

And then there were the letters — written in French and broken English over the course of 1945 — from Marie Cleuet. They're long, filled with longings to see Amirault, but also of mundane day-to-day activities.

The two perhaps had an affair, though she talks about her husband and being pregnant with a son. She called Amirault, "my love." She fretted when too long went by between letters, fearful he was angry with her. She talked of wanting to meet up with him in France.

On May 31, 1945, she wrote, "It is a very great pleasure to read your letters and know you are for me. I certainly wish very much to see you very soon."

Parker-Wolery feared over time she had romanticized the contents of the briefcase, her little girl sensibilities turning the story into a fairy tale. But, now she knows there was a mystery woman and some sort of love story.

She searched for clues that would lead her to the briefcase's owner.

Inside was a list of Amirault family names, notations from Dean who was trying to sort out her father's history. And the death certificate, which described Amirault as a sheet metal worker who was born in Fort Worth. He died of a heart attack in April 1989.

It was the most recent document and it had a Hurst, Texas, address on it.

Parker-Wolery tried Facebook first, thinking the name was so unusual the search would turn up just a few results.

She got 600.

She then typed that address into the Internet white pages. Up popped Dean, who moved into her father's home after he died.

"I know this is going to sound weird..." Parker-Wolery's message started.

Dean called right back.

She knew just what briefcase Parker-Wolery was referring to.

"I am just ecstatic," Dean said. "I can't wait to get it back."

Wednesday, Parker-Wolery looked through the letters one last time, brown packing paper and a box waiting nearby.

"I almost don't want to let it go because it's become part of my family history," Parker-Wolery said. "But the truth is I have to let it go, it's not ours."

Parker-Wolery slowly bundled the letters in twine, placing them back inside the plastic case.

On top she tucked a letter to Dean.

In it, she apologizes for taking so long to get the contents back to her. And she wrote: "Thank you for sharing your family's memories with me."

Nice to know that this family now gets the chance to connect again with a part of their past. How great for a family project at the next reunion!

Now, my friend, lets get some fresh coffee and sit on the patio. Supposed to rain later!


The cottage by the Cranelake said...

I just love these kinds of stories!

Have a great day now!

HermitJim said...

Hey Christer...
Love it when something like this works out for everyone concerned! Makes you feel kind of good, ya know?

Thanks, buddy, for coming by this morning!

Calandreya said...

Here's another one for you. :)

When the package that Frank Dinovo mailed to his bride during World War II finally arrived — 65 years later — he was quite taken aback.

Now 90 and living in a Council Bluffs retirement home, the Navy veteran stared at the brown parcel, still sealed shut.

He analyzed the handwriting. He scrutinized the addresses.

“I couldn't even talk,” he recalled Thursday. “I kept reading her name and my name, trying to put things together.”

By then, the package — and the special entrance it had made — had drawn an audience that was urging: Open the package already!

Inside Dinovo found two vinyl discs that he said contain voice messages he recorded at a USO club for his sweetheart, Mary. She has since died, having passed away in 2003 without ever hearing the recordings.

Where the package had been all these decades remains a mystery, although Dinovo credits a friend for recovering it at an antiques auction.

As of Thursday, he had yet to hear the recordings. He needs an old-school phonograph that can play the letter-on-a-record.

Until then, Dinovo is putting together the pieces of a love story — and relishing every moment.

HermitJim said...

Hey Calandreya...
Aren't these types of stories great? Gotta love a happy ending! Lord knows we don't hear enough of them now days!

Hey, I sure do appreciate you coming by this morning!

Ben in Texas said...

Yep, those kind of stories always brighten my day..

Thanks Jim.

JoJo said...

Good Morning My Special One
Great story and I hope it brings many unaswered questions to the family, also the story above how sad she never got to hear his love message to her.
Pass the pot please I will sit with you on the patio for awhile, nice way to spend Sunday morning.

HermitJim said...

Hey Ben...
Always good to hear a story of someone reconnecting with a part of their past!

I hope the lady that found the family gets her well deserved "merit points" for taking the trouble!

Thanks, buddy, for coming by today!

Hey JoJo...
You just know that being able to finally have those family treasures back again will put a smile on their faces!

A long time lost makes those memories seem just that more special, don't you think?

Thanks, sweetie, for coming by today!

Dizzy-Dick said...

Like always, Jim, you give us info that gives us, in a world of problems and death, a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that there is still good things and good people in this world.

chinasyndrome said...

You know Jim it is nice to know love and goodness still wins out sometimes.Theres much bad and evil in the world but sometimes with a little effort good wins.Very cool buddy.


HermitJim said...

Hey Dizzy...
I do what I can to find this kind of story, but it gets pretty hard sometimes.

Glad you liked it and I appreciate you coming by today!

Hey China...
It is nice to know that the really good folks win every now and again!

Most of the time, this kind of story gets buried among all the stories of murder and mayhem! You have to really look for them, but once in a while they pop up!

I'm glad you could come by today...and that you liked the story!

Marjie said...

Sometimes there are nice stories out there.

Kyddryn said...

I have a handful of letters written by a soldier to his love during the WWII era...they were brought into the gallery to be cut up and used as part of a group art project, but I rescued them before they met the scissors. I don't know why I cared...they were't written by or to any kin of mine, and the handwriting isn't always easy to read...but I can't bear to throw them away.

I'm glad that someone's history was not lost or discarded, but instead returned home to help fill in the gaps left behind by death and time.

Thanks for sharing this story, Mister Hermit, sir.

Shade and Sweetwater,

Zoe said...

Being the negative thinker that I am, my first thought was "if only they had turned the found item in to the police or lost & found, maybe the owner could have gotten it back a long time ago".