Lost and Found
September 6, 2012 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09
On a winter day in 1990, sophomore education major Kathleen Gedeon was in the Niagara University library working on a paper for her English class. As she had done many times before, she left her messenger bag on her table while she searched for the books she needed to complete her research. Some time later, she picked up her bag and walked over to the Gallagher Center to grab a bite to eat. That's when she discovered her wallet was gone.
Twenty-two years later, on a sunny summer morning, workers remodeling the first floor of the library lifted a bookshelf and discovered a wallet covered in the grime that had accumulated over two decades. It was Kathleen's.
The workers turned the wallet over to reference librarian Lucy Bungo.
“At first, I wasn't sure when the wallet was lost,” Lucy says. “But as I went through it I found two things: a Gap employee discount card with a label on it stating the card was good from Jan. 10, 1990, to Feb. 10, 1990, and a business card that had the Gap logo and a schedule written on the back. It seemed likely, given the work schedule in there, that Kathleen was working at the Gap and that the card was valid when the wallet was lost.”
When Kathleen heard the message on her answering machine from library office coordinator Lisa Jackson asking her to return the call, her initial reaction was that perhaps she had forgotten to return a book and now owed a fine. She called Lisa back and, when she learned that her wallet had been found after all those years, she recalled the day she lost it and was eager to have it back.
Just days later, the wallet arrived in Kathleen's Fairport, N.Y., mailbox. The items inside gave a glimpse of the young woman Kathleen, now married to classmate Stephen Cook, '92, and the mother of three daughters, was at the time. School IDs from both Niagara Catholic and Niagara University showed a woman with shorter hair than she wears today. There was a faded Polaroid photo of Kathleen with Stephen in the Gallagher Center, and business cards from both her father and brother. Nothing of particular value, Kathleen says, other than her Social Security card and the aforementioned Gap employee discount card. “That was huge!” she laughs.
Then Kathleen took a second look through the wallet. And there, tucked in a little compartment, was a small card with the name of her best friend, whom she had met when she was a freshman in high school. When she flipped the card over, Kathleen saw an Ithaca College address written in her friend's handwriting. The friend, Rebecca Granieri Stone (wife of NU alumnus Robert Stone, '93), had passed away just 18 months earlier of nonsmoker lung cancer. Kathleen found the note three days before what would have been Rebecca's 42nd birthday.
“I got very teary,” Kathleen says. “When I found the little card from my friend, it brought back the memories of writing letters back and forth through college. She was a wonderful friend that I had for so long and I dearly miss, so it was such a special gift to have that little card back in her own handwriting. To me, it was her way of letting me know that she's okay. It was one of those moments that you feel like God really has a way of intervening. I feel very blessed.”
Kathleen also appreciates the kindness Lucy showed in taking the time to return the wallet. “It far outweighs the wrong of someone stealing it in the first place,” she says. “It was heartwarming to think that someone would give that back, because it really probably looked very worthless to them.”