Sandi Triplett, co-owner of WLâ€™s Grill in Lincolnton, was helping a friend clean out an abandoned house near North Aspen Street when some interesting documents literally fell across her path.
As she carried a box to the trash, an old photograph fell out. Her interest piqued, she explored the remnants of the otherwise junk-filled box.
What she found took her on a year-long journey.
The family mementos she uncovered covered the full circle of life, from the birth announcement of Joseph Wayne Starnes in 1978 to a 1968 death certificate of Charles F. Lineberger.
Triplett also found a variety of Vietnam-era mementos, including letters home to Ruth W. Lineberger from her son, Pete.
A newspaper photograph was dutifully clipped out, featuring the United States Navy landing ship Westchester County sitting in Saigonâ€™s My Tho River after explosions ripped through the hull.
These keepsakes must be important to somebody, Triplett thought, but she didnâ€™t know who. She was determined to find out.
She started with the phone book.
Unfortunately, the familiar local family names Lineberger and Beam proved difficult in narrowing down the rightful owners of the documents.
After a year of searching, Triplett turned to the Lincoln Times-News for help.
â€œI just want the owners to have it,â€ she said. â€œI want someone to take care of this.â€
After calling Darrell Harkey, Lincoln County historical coordinator, the mystery was soon solved.
With one short look at the documents, he provided detailed information on the variety of family members featured.
Moreover, he helped discover the closest living relative that could tie the abandoned documents together.
Teddy Lineberger is the first cousin of the young man who wrote his parents from Vietnam some 38 years ago.
He still lives in the same area his family occupied for generations and remembers his cousin, who has since died, fondly.
Heâ€™s thankful for Triplettâ€™s discovery, care and perseverance.
â€œIâ€™m glad she did this,â€ said Teddy. â€œI know his kin would love this.â€
His daughter is currently developing a family tree. Teddyâ€™s pleased that she can benefit from the memories and historical value the newly-discovered mementos provide.
Harkey is just pleased to know that there are people who care, regardless of monetary value.
â€œShe needs to be commended for doing this,â€ he said. â€œI wish more people would do that. Too many people are quick to trash things.â€
â€œThis has no earthshaking historical value but itâ€™s still important,â€ he said. â€œThis is a tangible reminder of how things were.â€
by Katie Rozycki