This is an update written by project associate Amy Krause to an earlier post entitled “Reunited and it feels so good.”
While sorting and categorizing the photo albums and scrapbooks in Richard Bagley’s collection, it is always a thrill when there are enough clues for a potential return. Our minds and imaginations run wild with possibilities and stories of our own making, as was the case with the photo album recently returned to Darlene Poppie of Waukesha, Wisconsin. The album, while not large or very full, was full of personality; mostly, the personalities of two toddler sisters in various poses by a professional photographer.
With a few names and a stamp from the photography studio, our own sleuth PJ Santos took to investigating. She found a woman named Darlene, whom she suspected was one of the children in the photographs, through the obituary of Darlene’s mother, Marge Eichholz, published in The Waukesha Patch. Darlene’s mother had died at the age of 93 in 2013.
PJ called Darlene, explained what we had found and our belief that these photos might be of her and her sister Marilyn (Gene) Berry, now living in Tucson, Arizona. Once Darlene was over her initial surprise, her conversation with PJ revealed that the album must have belonged to Darlene’s grandmother. The only explanation for the album ending up in Costa Mesa, California was a story from the recesses of Darlene’s memory about a “bad uncle” who had moved her grandmother into a retirement facility and taken all of her belongings. I spoke with Darlene in the hope of getting more details and piecing together the journey of the photo album from Wisconsin to California, but the painful memories of this uncle were still so strong and deep in Darlene’s mind that she refused to even utter his name, warning me that she didn’t want me to know anything about him for my own protection.
Regardless, Darlene was very excited to see the album. When the mail delivery was not as fast as she anticipated, she even called telling me she anxiously awaited the mailman’s arrival every day and every day when the album did not come, she was sad and disappointed. When the album did finally arrive, its receipt prompted a tearful message on my phone of sincere gratitude. “I got my album today and I just cried and cried. I just can’t thank you girls enough,” she said.
I saved the message and I play it from time to time. It touches me that something Darlene never knew existed now means so much to her. And that through a unique set of circumstances, Richard, Darlene, Katherine, PJ, Carin and I are now connected through a story being shared in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Southern California. It is a story about a photo album, with professionally posed and printed photographs. The story is a phenomenon within the context of the current digital-snapchat-selfie-constant-posting-on-social-media society that we live in, representing another time. A time lost, perhaps, but in this case found, rediscovered, and appreciated—for now, at least, by a few.