Friday, November 30, 2012

Lost & Found - A Post Hurricane Sandy Story

I saw an article pop up on my Facebook news feed today.  It was one of those "long lost item found & returned to owner" feel good sort of story.
With all the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy late this past October (2012), the press will glam on to this sort of story quite readily, which is understandable, and is commendable.  
 It is far better than the "if it bleeds, it leads" attitude that media tends to take when reporting news these days.
Here is the article, in case you wish to read it for yourself:

Lost Military Jacket Found on Post-Sandy NJ Beach

 In case the link ends up eventually "null", or for those of you wishing to just read a "Cole's Notes" version, here it is summed up in 6 sentences. Now, I hope you appreciate this, as I'd prefer to put the whole article out there...mainly because I have a hard time not being long winded & verbally jog the round and about paths of explanatory exercises when it comes to just my own you may already know from reading prior blog posts...or working your way through this sentence!
 Anyway, here goes:
Woman on a beach clean-up  crew finds old, antique looking military jacket in the debris.
Woman/others track down jacket's owner via his last name written in it. It is found that the original wearer/owner of it (the one from 80+ years ago) had passed away,  also years ago. 
Jacket is "returned" to widow of the initial owner. 
Widow was completely unaware it existed at all.
Woman is happy, widow is, joy, joy all around!
Such a perfect story for this festive time of year...
The thing is, I suspect there is a very, very sad story lurking behind this jacket.
One thing that was noted was that the jacket was remarkably well preserved.
Odds are it wasn't ripped out of some dusty attic somewhere. There will be a very good reason it was well preserved. 
It was in a collection.
Quite possibly a lifetime collection of a serious militaria collector.  
Whose entire home, collection and all, was washed into the ocean by Hurricane Sandy.
Or, perhaps it was in a museum, which may have met the same fate.
 In any case, I think it is highly unlikely that the jacket was not already owned and highly appreciated.  More than likely it had even been legitimately purchased, perhaps many, many years ago....maybe even from the widow's husband when he was alive. Perhaps he sold it to pay for an engagement ring, who knows. We could speculate for days.
So, I am thinking there is much more to the story behind this jacket.
 The widow may have it in her possession now, but the credit due for  ultimate preservation may belong to a collector who cherished it as much, or more, than she.  I do hope that if this jacket is found to be from a collection, whether it be a private collection or museum collection, that the widow be willing to return it to the hands that have lovingly cared for it all these years. 
She should be proud to know that a special object from her husband's early military career's history was preserved by someone who cared about history enough to do so.
We can only hope that the unknown collector did not loose their life in the Hurricane.
knowing passionate collectors as I do, loosing their collection may be as bad, or worse, than dying, however. 
 If the jacket is from a private collection, and the collector is alive, I have to wonder what he/she is going through at this moment. 
  Over my many years in the antiques business, I have met and even become friends with many very passionate collectors. 
Sadly, I have also witnessed what happened to these same sorts of collectors at the loss of their collections. Even whenjust some, part of, or their entire collection was stolen, destroyed (by flood, fire, etc), or they were forced to liquidate it due to financial stress/divorce/"insert mental or physical health issue here" the after effects were long and far reaching, and wreaked havoc on many, and sometimes all parts of their lives.
That collector may have survived Hurricane Sandy, but their life has changed, and they will still be dealing with a loss that is more than sadness over loosing a home, personal possessions and keepsakes. That will be hard enough, but what the collector will be dealing with will double that pain. What may have been a life's work, their passion, irreplaceable physical remnants of history they personally preserved/found/cared for, the accumulation that may have been their most proud accomplishment... 
At this point, I have no happy, nor amusing anecdote to close with. 
That is right, no happy ending to close with. 
Maybe there will be yet, only time will tell.  


  1. Finally someone out there who knows the actual value of a real passion for history, and what goes on in the heart of a real collector! There are so few of us out there! Thanks SO much for the story... from a fellow "long-winder".

    1. Thank-you for your comment! If you share this post with your close friends, family and Facebook friends perhaps we could show the world that there is more to collecting than what the general public perceives as the hoarding of objects. We need to show the passion for HISTORY preservation, and the lessons that go along with it.