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Found WWII-era photos in Scottsdale park to be reunited with family

Family photos found.jpg
Posted at 10:11 PM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 11:26:05-05

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — A discovery of family photos and letters at a Scottsdale park put a Valley man on a journey to reunite them with the original owner.

Biking through Scottsdale's Chaparral Park last month, Lawrence Sutherland found a plastic bag on a park bench with a family's lost photos and letters inside.

He quickly learned the photos date back to the World War II era.

The pictures included wedding photos of a happy couple after reciting their vows, shots of a family gathered around the table, and a baby being passed around to smiling family members.

The bag also included letters.

"It turns out he was a private who was a medic in the U.S. Army,” said Lawrence.

With the postmark dated around Valentine's Day 1945, the Army medic, who helped injured soldiers recover from combat in New York, was writing to his love back in Chicago.

One letter shows how distance can make a heart grow fonder. The outside of one card read ‘YOUR POST-WAR PLANS’ and on the inside was a photo of a newborn baby.

"He wanted to have a baby with her,” said Lawrence.

The captured moments from generations ago and letters detailing the foundational roots of a family tree were forgotten on a park bench – but not for long.

Lawrence posted the findings on Nextdoor and shared it with local media.

After a month of the old pictures getting older, a genealogist reached out to him with a possible owner and just this week put him in touch with one of the young men in the photo.

The family didn't want to be part of the story, but they explained to Lawrence that relatives from across the Valley met up at Chaparral Park in February to hand off the memories and accidentally forgot them.

"These people communicated to me how sick they were that they thought these photos were lost forever,” said Lawrence.

The reason those relatives met at Chaparral Park was because the couple seen in the aged wedding photo lived near the park in the 1970s.

This week Lawrence gave the family peace of mind. Next week, he'll give them back their memories.

"I'm glad to relieve them of any heartache they felt from this possible loss,” he said.