The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Mike Pound

May 31, 2011

Mike Pound: Stotts City man finds ‘air-mail’ delivery

It was a series of fortunate coincidences in an unfortunate time.

Donna Moss, the do-everything person in the Globe newsroom, received a call from a guy who had found some papers that he thought belonged to a victim of the May 22 tornado.

Donna sent the caller to reporter Jeff Lehr. The guy on the phone told Jeff that he found military paperwork that apparently belonged to a man named Glenn Holland. Jeff knew that Glenn and his wife, Lorie, were killed in the tornado. Jeff also knew that Glenn used to be Bill Caldwell’s brother-in-law. Bill is the Globe’s photo clerk and librarian, so Jeff put the caller in touch with Bill.

Later, Bill was telling me the story of how the missing paperwork made its way to him and how it eventually would make its way to Glenn’s family.

Bill thought it was a neat, but sad, set of coincidences. I agreed and asked Bill for the name of the guy who found the papers. Bill jotted down the guy’s name and phone number on a sheet of paper and handed it to me.

I looked at the name Bill had written on the sheet of paper and smiled.

Bill had written the name Richard Beydler. I know Richard.

Later in the day, I phoned Richard up. He told me that he and his wife had been in Arizona attending baseball great Harmon Killebrew’s funeral and got home late last Wednesday night.

On Thursday, Richard, who lives in Stotts City, found Glenn’s paperwork in his driveway.

“I picked it up,” he said. “It was a tri-fold. It was wet, so I took it in and laid it out to dry.”

The papers were Glenn’s military discharge papers. When Richard read the name on the papers, he was pretty sure the name matched one of the names on a storm fatality list he read in the Globe.

Richard checked the paper looking for an obituary that might lead him to a family contact. He then made an appeal on Facebook and finally, on Tuesday, he called the Globe.

“I thought they (the family) might need the paperwork to get a flag and military honors,” Richard said.

Turns out Richard was correct.

Jenny Smith is Glenn’s youngest sister and is acting as the executor of his estate. Jenny already had been in contact with the military folks.

“They said if we had a copy of it (the discharge papers), it would really help,” Jenny said. “At this point, any paperwork we can get our hands on will help.”

Richard insists that he didn’t do anything special. As far as he is concerned, he is just returning something that doesn’t belong to him.

But the thing is, Richard did something special. He saw a piece of paper and, rather than tossing it, he figured it might be important to someone. And it was.

It’s really an important thing to remember. Right now, there are important documents, photos and mementos scattered all over the area, and those documents, photos and mementos likely belong to someone who would love to have them back.

In some cases, found documents might help untangle what could become a bureaucratic nightmare. In other cases, a photo or memento might restore a sense of order when order seems to be far away.

Jenny and I chatted about that Tuesday afternoon. Jenny said there are likely thousands of people doing the same thing that she is doing: scrambling to find parts of a life in a pile of rubble.

“When my brother died, I didn’t know it was going to be a scavenger hunt,” Jenny said with a laugh.

By the way, Jenny laughed several times during our conversation, and when I mentioned that, Jenny said she had to laugh every once in a while.

“If you don’t laugh, you cry,” she said.

Can I get an amen for Jenny?

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Tornado: Mike Pound