Through a combination of dogged determination and amateur sleuthing, three men reunited a 79-year-old man with a wooden box filled with his father’s mementos that he long believed had been lost to time.
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Colonel Clyde Parthree, a.k.a. Old Gray Fox, served during WWII and tucked away numerous keepsakes during his travels. The pictures, passports, newspaper clippings, flight instruments, hats, cigarette lighters and other items were stored for safekeeping in his wooden footlocker.
Clyde passed away in 1966, and the footlocker was transferred to his daughter for safekeeping. But his son, 79-year-old Don Parthree, hadn’t seen it in 25 years and believed that irreplaceable treasure trove of family history had been thrown away after she died.
“The footlocker seemed to just disappear,” said Don’s daughter, Cindy Blass. “It is something my father always asked about because his dad’s flag was in it.”
Then one day, out of the blue, Don received amazing news: The footlocker had been rescued out of a dumpster in Northern Neck, Virginia!
Roger Briney, himself a veteran, had spotted the container — which was adorned with an American flag — just before it was about to be crushed.
“I was mad as heck because someone threw away the flag,”he recalled.
He brought it to his friend, Walker Gaulding, who did some digging and discovered the footlocker once belonged to Clyde, a test pilot who, among other things, flew an experimental aircraft, ferried troops and supplies into battle, and helped greet the plane that flew President Kennedy’s body to Andrews Airforce Base from Dallas.
Gaulding then teamed up with his friend Nigel Mulvena to track down Clyde’s remaining family members and eventually found Don at an assisted living facility in La Plata, Maryland.
In March, he and his daughter traveled to Virginia to retrieve a footlocker that had remained sealed for 51 years. Walker said it’s “like a time capsule in every way … The condition is really amazing.â€
Not surprisingly, Don expressed his undying gratitude to the three men who’d worked so tirelessly to get the footlocker back in the right hands.
“I’m so happy having it now,”he said. “You’ve made me feel real good again.â€
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