Woman searches for rightful owner of family memories

Woman searches for rightful owner of family memories »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A local woman found a suitcase full of photos and letters at a thrift store in downtown Bakersfield.  Now she's looking for the rightful owners of the memorabilia that represents a lifetime of memories for one couple.

The contents of the suitcase fill Olivia Leyva's dining room table. The photos, letters and documents tell the story of Frank and Betty McClure.

According to the documents, the McClures met in the 1940s and began their courtship while he was in the Navy, stationed in San Francisco. The love letters Frank sent to Betty are still intact and held together with a red satin ribbon.

Leyva was hesitant to open the letters but began reading them a few at a time over the last several months.

"About three days ago or four days ago, I pulled them out and finished reading them all," Leyva said. "And, they are just really cute for him to be writing her while he's gone it was just really cute."

Leyva bought the suitcase in November 2010 from P&M Bargain Outlet. She was drawn to the worn and weary luggage, but it was what that suitcase contained that really pushed her to make the purchase.

"This suitcase caught my eye, because I love older stuff. And, I went around and started digging around and when I opened it I seen a bunch of old pictures and I thought it would be interesting so I bought it with all of the other stuff and I took it home," Leyva said.

After getting the items home and sorting through the stacks she knew the documents were invaluable to the McClure family.

"When I realized what it was, it was somebody's family history. So I kind of felt bad that somebody lost such a big thing that they put a lot of work into. So, I thought right now would be a good time to try to find the family and maybe give it back to them," Leyva said.

The history stretches back decades with family photos and documents dating back to the early 1800s. There is evidence that the research on the family tree was compiled by Betty McClure herself. Leyva is astounded by the amount of hard work that went into the collection and while she has enjoyed having the items in her home she knows it's time to give it all back.

"It's just fascinating but for some reason I feel that they are not mine and if I could find who they belong to it would make me feel a lot better than holding out on them and keeping them," Leyva said.

Eyewitness News did some investigating and we were able to find surviving relatives of Frank and Betty. While they declined to speak with up we have put them in contact with Leyva. The items should be making their way back to members of the McClure Family very soon.