Sometimes the most unexpected event can leave one with a smile on their face.
London Thompson never expected to find anything like she did in two filling cabinets located in the garage of the Ardmore house she moved into last December.
After a month in the new house, she and her fiance, Justin Wilcox, were unpacking and organizing the garage when they decided to open the top drawer of the beige filing cabinet with a sunflower patch attached to the middle drawer.
“I thought they would be empty, but thought ‘I am just going to look’,” remembers Thompson, who moved to Ardmore from the Memphis-area. “The first things I saw was this frame, which had two sets of rings tied together with the names Raymond Beem and Anna Beem engraved.”
Thompson says she set the frame marking a wedding anniversary of a couple aside and continued to go through the drawers in disbelief of the items inside. She came across newspaper clippings, photo albums with aged-yellow snapshots of a family from the 1970s, letters and cards postmarked decades ago, lesson plans and hymnals for a Sunday school class, a Bible with handwritten notes, art projects, a living will and much more.
It didn’t take long for her to realize she had stumbled upon treasures and mementos from a family that must have once lived in the three-bedroom house on Bixby Street in Ardmore’s southwest portion.
She began to write down the names she found from the newspaper clippings, legal documents and full-names listed on aged-envelopes. From there, she typed in the names for searches on Google and Facebook. She visited the website, BeenVerified.com, in attempts to locate any public record of the names she found, which mostly ended in either Mathes or Beem. Her initial searches were performed from her iPhone.
Her goal was to gain a phone number for a living family member and return the family treasures, she says.
“I couldn’t let it go,” Thompson admits. “If someone moved into the cabin my grandfather built and found old photos of me and my cousins, I would be delighted to get a phone call to get my memories back.”
The 26-year-old kept searching and, in mid-May, she found a listing for a Dorothy B. Mathes of Keller, Texas, who was listed as a past resident of the house on Bixby Street. There were three listings in the phone book for Dorothy Mathes in Keller, Texas.
“I thought none of the numbers would work,” Thompson confesses. “The first was not her. When I called the second number, an older woman answered. I knew I had found her.”
It was on that phone call on May 17 that Thompson began to explain to a 79-year-old woman the contents of two filing cabinets located in her garage and her efforts to find a relative.
“I’m almost 80 myself,” Mathes said. “I had no idea they were in the garage. I was shocked.”
“She called me again the next day,” Thompson said. “She told me she was up all night thinking about what could be in the filing cabinets.”
Thompson offered to make the trip to Texas to deliver the items, but Mathes insisted on coming to Ardmore to retrieve the items from her past residence. Mathes inherited the house after her parents, Raymond and Anna Beem, passed away.
Mathes said the house, which was built in the 1930s, had been inhabited by members of her family for many years.
After 10 years away from her Ardmore residence, Mathes rang the door bell on May 18 to be greeted by new resident Thompson.
“London was so precious,” Mathes said. “She had put everything in boxes and loaded it into my car. She has been so sweet to help me. I had been interested in going through the many pictures and many mementoes which are just fabulous.”
Mathes, who retired as a registered nurse from the Ardmore hospital, said she and her husband, Marvin Mathes Jr., spent many happy years in the Bixby residence. The front yard is also home to a light post donated in loving memory of Mathes’ husband for his service as a volunteer firefighter for the Lake Murray Village Fire Department. He tragically passed away from a heart attack at the scene of a fire in 1996.
Both women say it was remarkable to visit with each other. Mathes shared with Thompson about the light post honoring her husband, as well as her mother planting the trees that line the driveway.
“It was such a pleasure to meet her,” Thompson said. “She is such a sweet lady. She calls regularly and we talk. I can’t stress how amazing this experience has been. Just seeing the look on her face as she saw her mother’s handwriting, signature and photos that she thought were lost.”
“London went to so much trouble to find me and for me to be able to have these things,” Mathes said. “People wouldn’t believe how much this meant to me. I have pictures from wedding celebrations and birthdays. I just plan on being in touch with London for as long as we live.”
Thompson says she has taken to Facebook to share the story to her family and friends, many in Mississippi. She hopes that those who hear the tale will be encouraged to do nice things for others, even for people they may have never met.
All the family mementoes Thompson found are now back to Mathes, who says she spends time each day reviewing the contents, bringing a smile to her face.
She is not the only one smiling.
“I feel like we’ve know each other for years,” Thompson says. “I think when you share something so personal, you develop a life-long bond.”