No one’s memories should go in the trashcan.
That’s according to Rebecca Stone, of Elizabeth City, who recently reunited Edna DeWald, of Morgan’s Corner, with dozens of long-lost family photos belonging to her late ex-husband’s family.
Stone recovered the photos from items donated to the Salvation Army Thrift Store on Hughes Boulevard, where she worked more than a decade ago.
“I guess I’m the keeper of other people’s memories,” she said.
Flipping through the photos, Stone and DeWald saw childhood photos, weddings and other precious moments from the life of Fran DeWald, whom Edna said lived in Gates County and passed away years ago. Edna speculated that, once Fran and her husband died, their daughter left the photos with the thrift store while seeing to their personal effects.
DeWald said she would take the photos to her former sister-in-law, Catherine Cox, of Hickory, who’d preserve them for the family. Despite her divorce, DeWald said she was happy to get the photos to the family she’s known for more than 30 years.
Delivering the photos to DeWald marks the second time Stone has been able to return family photos left with the Salvation Army when people donated furniture and other items. The first set of photos she returned went to a family in Texas around 1995.
Whether the photos were intentionally abandoned or not, Stone doesn’t know. But the thrift store had no use for them, Stone said, and she decided to save them rather than see them thrown away.
To reunite the photos with their families has been an undertaking, Stone said. The family in Texas, for example, wasn’t easy to find. There were no local relatives, little to go on from the photos themselves, and the Internet wasn’t as robust or common as it is today.
Currently there are two other families Stone is trying to track down. One is the family of a Grace Glenn. Stone doesn’t know much about her, but apparently she graduated from South Broward High School in Hollywood, Fla., in 1951 or 1952. The other family has a last name of “Orlando,” she said.
Many of the photos date back decades — some nearly a century — so Stone said finding the families today is difficult. It involves a lot of phone calls, public records and dead ends. Stone joked many of her phone conversations start with, “I’m in Elizabeth City and I’m not a crazy person.”
Stone said she’s not totally sure why she’s doing so much work for complete strangers. But standing next to DeWald several weeks ago, she pointed to one of the photos. It was of a young girl in a bonnet and probably dated back to the early 1900s.
The thought of someone losing a picture like that “hurts my heart,” Stone said.
Have a lead for Stone in her search to reunite discarded photos with the family they once belonged to? Contact Jon Hawley at 252-335-8119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org