“It’s like seeing an old friend.”
That’s what 92-year-old Los Gatos resident Janice Anne Duncan told us about the photo album that encapsulated much of her teenage and young adult life at the height of World War II when she opened the pages early Friday morning.
Oftentimes in police work, we don’t necessarily get to close out our cases by sharing a moment with those impacted by a particular incident. But, today was different.
Found at a homeless encampment at the end of August and covered with muddy footprints, it took no time at all to realize that this album needed to get home to its family. Smiling men and women, children playing in a river, this album was a detailed snapshot of someone’s life.
For three months, MVPD community service officers Leslie Hardie and Jodie Pierce scoured tirelessly through records, seeing if they could find out to whom this album may have belonged. A call for help on social media led to a nationwide search, but few leads turned up.
Then, one day, a breakthrough.
Hardie and Pierce noticed a name that matched as they were searching on Ancestry.com, and realized that the woman they had found – Janice – lived nearby. We immediately reached out, only to learn that the home that Janice had owned in Sunnyvale had been sold and she had moved down the road to Los Gatos.
Yesterday was the day that we had hoped to have for months. We reached out to Nancy Jacobs, Janice’s younger sister, who said they had no idea the album had been missing, but would very much like to have it back.
Janice hadn’t seen it in 35 years.
“I just can’t believe it,” Nancy told us.
Officer Mike Taber wrapped the album carefully in burlap and twine, much like the way presents were wrapped during the World War II era and he and Sgt. Wahed Magee stood anxiously as they watched the sisters walk up to retrieve their photos.
We were thrilled to not only meet the sisters, lively and decked out in holiday sweaters just in time for the start of the season, but to spend a few moments going through the album and to revisit a part of their lives.
Among the photos? Snapshots of a young Janice and Nancy spending a summer on the Russian River. A portrait of their father. A 1942 class photo from Nancy’s time at Mills College.
It’s moment like these that make our job indescribable – it’s old-fashioned police work at its finest, but it’s also so much more. What a joy to be able to reunite the memories with the women who made them.
We want to thank Janice and Nancy for letting us spend some time with them this morning, and we wanted to thank all of you for helping to spread the word in an effort to reunite the album with its owners. This truly is a case to remember.