Those of you that know me and my musings online know I like to write a lot about my local surroundings here in the Pacific Northwest. I also like to share technology and online resources I find and use and thoughts about the evolving social web.
But over the past two or three years especially, my online conversations about people and places, local events and history, and my travels have produced the most interesting discoveries, engagement, and opportunities for personal and business connections.
My conversations about the Renton Library, The Library over the River, got me a phone call from 93 year old David Johnston, formerly of Johnston and Campanella Architects. The firm designed and built many area schools, shopping centers, and commercial buildings. They won several awards for their clean modern designs and forward looking esthetic. Mr. Johnston was online searching for information about his favorite project, the library and the politically charged and controversial conversation about closing it down and moving it . Who'd he run into online? Me and my posts about it, so he called me.
I’ve talked about growing up in Renton in the 1950’s and 60’s and no history of that would be complete without including my grandparents, George and Pauline Fabre. These writings would lead me to discover that the Louise Fabre Joulia who lived in Black Diamond (1903 - 1912) was in fact my Grandfather’s sister. I didn’t know that. She lost two husbands and returned to France. The Renton Historical Museum aware of my writings online pointed the way to a post on the Black Diamond History Blog about Louise and they also informed me that a relative of hers was searching for Fabre's from Renton hoping to find relatives.
Within a month Maima Gaudfrin, who lives in Tahiti, found me online. Louise Fabre Joulia was her grandmother. We connected on Facebook and after several converations about family members and exchanging photos, I have a second cousin I never knew about.
I have several stories of connection, but the most amazing one just took place a few weeks ago. I was leaving the Renton Fred Meyer store and walking across the parking lot when my phone rang.
Hello... My name is Brent...
You don’t know me from Adam, but I think I have something that belongs to you.”
As it turns out Brent lived at my grandparents house for a few years. He was moving out when he discovered two metal boxes behind a closet panel next to the chimney. After searching online at sites like Ancestory.com and History.org with no luck he decided to simply Google ‘George and Pauline Fabre' to see what he might find and as he put it, "You showed up everywhere."
So now that Brent found me he asks, "Where are you?" I reply, Fred Meyer in downtown Renton. "So am I. I'm just checking out now. Can I meet you in 5 minutes?" Sure, see you in the parking lot. I'll be standing next to my Ford Explorer by the north entrance.
Wow, just how weird is that?.. A few minutes later here comes Brent and he hands me the two metal boxes. We shook hands and chatted for several minutes. I felt like a little kid. I wanted to be sure he knew he had the right person so I was going for my drivers license when he gestures me not to bother. "No worries, I know it’s you," he smiles. I’ve seen you everywhere online.
When I got home I put the boxes on my dining room table and paced around and stared at them for the longest time. I kept saying to myself, how over the top amazing is this! What stars had to align themselves for such a thing to happen?
There’s so much about my family I’ll never know. I remember many stories but I’ve forgotten a lot of the details about those early days working the coal mines, the old timers and family, their friends and neighbors, and the epic journeys they all encountered getting here from the old country.
It turns out the two boxes are full of old personal papers and documents like their certificates of citizenship, their wedding book from August 6, 1917. Several receipts of purchase like Grandpa’s 1949 Chevrolet and a Bonelli accordion bought on December 2, 1938 for Grandma Pauline’s step brother, Pete Delaurenti.
I bet, knowing them, the accordion was a family purchase and several members put their money together to buy it. So typical of those times and I'm sure it was Grandma who was put in charge of the transaction and she and another family member or two took the trolley to Seattle and paid cash for it.
After all these years, who would have thought a day would come out of the blue and I'd get this call, and the caller would be within 50 yards of me and 5 minutes later he'd walk up and hand me such a precious family treasure.
Only in these times...