Friday, April 1, 2016

Lost and Found: Returning a Photo Album to Its Rightful Owner

Click to enlarge

Last summer I posted an entry about Josh Koonce, who had rescued two old photo albums from an evicted storage unit in Chicago and was hoping to reunite them with their rightful owner. The image above shows part of a spread from one of the albums, and you can see additional photos here and here.

I'm happy to report that Josh has hit paydirt. Here's an email I received from him on Friday, April 1:

Not long after our correspondence last year, I was removing photos from the album for scanning and I found a name on the back of one of them. The photo showed a young woman and on the back was her name, along with "Age 16" and "11th grade." It was a name not mentioned elsewhere in the album. I will call her by her initials, JE.

Google — or rather, one of those weird whitepages websites that still exist on the internet for some reason — turned up an address in the Chicago south suburbs along with a publicly listed telephone number.

And what I did with that info was ... procrastinate for about nine months. I'd be a terrible reporter.

Earlier this week I finally worked up my nerve and decided I had to make this call. The number worked and the man who answered only told me his first name (I'll call him J). Although he seemed skeptical at first, he said he was JE's husband. I asked if I could talk to her, he didn't want to let me do that, but he definitely knew about the albums and wanted to meet up so he could retrieve them.

I told J I'd give him the albums even if he came alone, but that I'd prefer to give them to JE as well, since they were photos of her and her family.

We arranged to meet at a Dunkin Donuts near my office on my lunch break earlier today. I brought the albums, and J and JE were both there to meet me. They went through the albums right there with me, and it was pretty emotional — they did not think they were going to see these photos again. JE's father had placed the albums with some other belongings in the storage unit before succumbing to dementia and eventually passing away. By the time the family knew the storage unit was being evicted, it was too late to save anything.

I declined their offer of a reward, they declined my request for a photo, and I apologized that it had taken me so long to get the photos to them.

Very nice. Congrats to Josh on the successful resoluation of this story.