Joanna Qualtrough came home from work last Monday evening to find a strange package sitting on her front bench.
Wrapped inside a tightly tied plastic shopping bag were two letters addressed to a Patricia MacDonald, an old Electrolux vacuum belt and two photo albums containing family memorabilia from half a century ago.
“I just saw it sitting there in a plastic shopping bag, and it was tied tight, so I had to rip it to get it open,” Qualtrough explained.
“I just figured maybe a friend dropped something off. You know, you leave a casserole dish at someone’s house, they swing back and drop it off at your doorstep — it’s not unusual. But then I brought it in and realized that it didn’t belong to me. I just realized these are not mine, who left these here?”
While trying to figure out why these items were placed at her home in southern Brookswood, Qualtrough began going through the photo albums and quickly discovered they were something very special.
Beyond the cute photos of a little baby boy were a birth certificate for a Lloyd James MacDonald, born May 9, 1959 in Murrayville, his immunization certificates, a baptism certificate from St. Andrew’s Church in Langley, a lock of hair from his first haircut and even newspaper clippings from various community events.
“It’s so precious that somebody has saved all these things,” Qualtrough said.
“It won’t be long before our children, and their children, they won’t have hard copies like this to look back on — they won’t. We’re in such a digital world, it makes me sad that somebody — look at all of this effort — every page is taped so that nothing falls out … Now we have pictures of absolutely everything. People take 30 pictures a day of random nothings. We don’t realize how precious this is. I think it’s really neat.”
Wanting to solve the mystery, Qualtrough decided to post the album on the Brookswood Community Facebook page to see if anyone in the area knew who this boy, or Patricia MacDonald, could be.
While no one did, the post did garner a lot of attention, particularly from Langley resident Jennifer Palmer, who decided to do some research of her own.
Palmer went through the phone book and began calling every MacDonald listed, but no one seemed to know who either Lloyd or Patricia were.
She did, however, discover something tragic.
Lloyd passed away at the young age of 16, and his father, Ramsay MacDonald, passed away in 2002.
“This is very bizarre to me, like look at this little baby bracelet,” Qualtrough said while pointing to small blue and white beads pasted into the album.
“And I think it’s even more special because he (Lloyd) passed on at such a young age. There’s a story here, there’s something here.
“I would like to get this to the family. I think it’s got some very interesting memorabilia in there.”
‘SECOND HOUSE PAST THE ENTRANCE’
While meeting with a Times reporter, Qualtrough was inspecting the two pieces of mail that accompanied the photo albums, and noticed a hand scrawled name and phone number with the words “new owners” written above.
Curious, she decided to call the number.
As it turns out, her neighbour, Doug Madden, was the one who placed the photo album on her porch.
Madden and his wife, Peggy, just moved from Kamloops into their new home at a nearby mobile home park on Nov. 30 — the same home that the mysterious Patricia MacDonald moved out of.
While unpacking, they found the two photos albums inside a cupboard in the back room.
Madden decided to take the photo albums, along with Patricia’s mail, over to another neighbour they had met, Kip, who had previously told them he knew Patricia.
“He said he lived in the second house down from the park on 198 (Street),” Madden explained.
“So when I found the photo album, well I thought, ‘Oh I’ll take the photo album and the letters to the second house past the entrance.’
“But I didn’t know whether the person lived on the right side of the road or the left side, so I took a chance and put my name and phone number there in case it was the wrong people they could call me and we’d try again.”
Although Madden didn’t know MacDonald, who apparently moved into a seniors’ home, he did feel an uncanny connection to her.
While touring the home with his real estate agent prior to buying it, he noticed a portrait of a firefighter on top of a cabinet in the living room.
Madden is a retired fire chief from Port Coquitlam.
“We thought it was meant to be,” he said.
So when he found the photo albums, he wanted to make sure they got back to their original owner.
“What a memento,” he said.
A MURRAYVILLE PIONEER
The Times was unable to contact a Kip in the area, however an online obituary for Ramsay MacDonald noted that he had owned Mac’s Auto Parts on Fraser Highway in Murrayville for 50 years.
That company is still in business — now operating as Mac’s Traders Inc. under the leadership of Ruedi Uebelhardt.
According to the company’s website, in 1954 Ramsay opened the business to sell auto parts.
He soon branched out to retail all products made of metal, and became the only metal recycler in the area.
And, interestingly enough, Ramsay was also one of the founding members of the Zone 6 Murrayville Volunteer Fire Department, which was located across from his business.
The Uebelhardts are still in touch with the MacDonald family, and were quickly able to contact Patricia’s nephew, Doug MacDonald, to retrieve the photo albums.
‘SHE’LL BE GLAD TO GET THEM BACK’
Although a little confused by how a newspaper ended up in possession of his aunt’s photo albums, Doug MacDonald was very appreciative to have them returned to his family.
His uncle, Ramsay, was a lifelong resident of Murrayville, having been born on a farm near the current Langley Memorial Hospital in October, 1929, and passing away in 2002 in that very hospital.
Ramsay married Patricia in the late 1950s, and together they had one son, Lloyd James, better known as ‘Jimmy’ by friends and family.
“They built the house right across the road from the auto wrecker,” Doug explained.
“They lived in the bungalow there on Fraser Highway. Jimmy was raised there. Ramsay operated the business. Pat lived there on her own up until about three years ago, then moved to the trailer in Brookswood.”
Doug also confirmed that Ramsay, along with Doug’s father, Lorance, were two of the founding members of the Murrayville fire hall, and both served as firemen. Lorance was killed in 1959, but Ramsay continued there until his retirement.
Patricia has now moved to Avalon Gardens Seniors Housing, which, oddly enough, sits on the same plot of land that the original Zone 6 fire hall was built on, Doug said.
Jimmy passed away in 1975 of cancer, and the photo albums were created by Patricia in his memory.
“Jimmy sadly went in about a year,” Doug recalled, while looking at the baby photos in the album.
“She’ll be glad to get them back, I’m sure of that.”