Family Heirlooms Reunited With Owner

August 6, 2009 1:48:40 AM PDT
After more than a year of searching, Tulare County has finally found the rightful owners to an old 8-milimeter home video and family pictures that are more than 100 years old. Lee Bailey is that rightful owner. Pointing out one of the items he says, "This was my grandmother's family bible."

Bailey, a third generation citrus grower from Orange Cove, was ecstatic to be reunited with 100-year old family heirlooms -- some of which he never knew existed. Lee Bailey says "You start looking back and you look at history. Sure, it brings back memories."

The family heirlooms were stolen from the home of Bailey's late father a couple years ago. The sheriff's department recovered them and they ended up in the care of Al Guzman with the county's purchasing department. Al Guzman says "It was worth it today with the history of what Mr. Bailey told us about his family and how they came out here."

Guzman's friend is the one who made the reunion possible. How did she do it? Bonnie Napier says "Playing history detective!" An old photo fanatic, it took Bonnie Napier just four days to track down the rightful owner. Napier says "One of the first things in this very old album were a lot of names listed on this back page."

Napier noticed the name "Bailey" on several pictures -- in an album from the 1800s and on a 1926 postcard addressed to a Benjamin Bailey in Orange Cove. After calling a family in Orange Cove who has the last name Bailey she discovered Benjamin was Lee Bailey's grandfather.

Napier says "And as we talked further it was clear that these were their pictures."

Lee Bailey says, "These I haven't seen for years." Among the family heirlooms found are 8-milimeter home videos from the 1940s which Action News first brought to you back in June, a cross knitted by his grandmother, photos of his grandfather when he was little and photos of his parents. He even found himself in an early 1940s photo album.

Bailey says, "Thankfully they have been recovered by the county and the research they did to find this. Otherwise, it would have been lost and we would have never known."

Lee Bailey and his family spent the rest of the day looking through the photo albums. They now need to find an 8-milimeter player so they can watch the old family reels they've never seen before.

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