I woke up Saturday morning to an email on my phone from an address I didn’t recognize. “Hi. I don’t think you know me, not unless you have been to where I work. I work in Verona, NJ…” the email read.
I’d been to the store once or twice, but not in many years. A little confused, I read on.
The woman went on to tell me that last year she had come across an old camera in an antique shop. On the bottom of the camera was the name, “Mitchell” and a social security number. She told me this was standard practice for military personnel and figured the camera belonged to some GI.
Mitchell was my grandfather’s last name and he was stationed in the South Pacific with the U.S. Navy in World War II.
The woman went on to tell me she planned on putting the camera up for auction on eBay, but before she did she wanted to see if this camera belonged to anyone.
After searching the name and social security number online she came across my grandfather’s obituary, where she learned Craig Mitchell was survived by his two daughters and four grandchildren. The daughters’ last names were listed, however the grandchildren were listed only by first name.
My mother and my aunt’s names yielded no contact leads as she searched for a way to track down the camera’s owner. She then proceeded to mix and match the first names of the four grandchildren with the two last names of my mother and aunt. Eventually she came across my website, where she was able to reach out to me via the “Contact Me” page.
My parents and I drove to the store Saturday afternoon, where the woman greeted us at the door. Upon introducing myself she went into a back room and retrieved a camera that appeared to be from the late 1960s or early 1970s. My mother instantly recognized it as the camera my grandfather had taken with him on every family vacation of her childhood. Sure enough, on the bottom of the camera was my grandfather’s last name and social security number, carved in as much of a person’s handwriting as one can successfully do while carving.
She refused any reimbursement for the camera. Upon finding my website and seeing that I am in journalism, she knew how much it would mean to me as a storyteller. We have no idea how long ago this camera left my grandfather’s possession. Perhaps it is a coincidence, or perhaps a sheer act of fate, that after whatever journey this camera may have had over the years, it was reunited with my family just a mile down the road from our home.
Alex Eliasof, Verona High School class of 2010, was just graduated from Penn State University with a degree in broadcast journalism.