Stranger helps Atlanta woman recover mother’s 80-year-old photo that was stolen

Chris Harrison was reunited with a small photograph of her mother nearly eight months after it was stolen in Portland. She has since made several copies of it.

Credit: Chris Harrison

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Chris Harrison was reunited with a small photograph of her mother nearly eight months after it was stolen in Portland. She has since made several copies of it.

Credit: Chris Harrison

8 months after Chris Harrison’s wallet was taken in Portland, a man found it - with picture still inside

A photo of Chris Harrison’s mother had survived World War II and an Indiana flood, but the Sandy Springs woman thought she might never see it again when her wallet was stolen last year with the picture inside.

Nearly eight months later, in April, she received a call from a stranger who said he had found the wallet in Oregon and wanted to return it to her.

“I was very skeptical,” Harrison told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I was glad he called me because I wanted that picture. That’s the only thing in there that mattered to me.”

Harrison was visiting her daughter and two grandchildren in Portland during the first two weeks of September when her wallet was stolen.

She wanted to cook a final family dinner before returning to metro Atlanta, so she headed to Trader Joe’s for a few items. Two minutes after stepping into the store, someone bumped into her, Harrison said. But it was a few minutes later when someone told her that her bag was wide open. She immediately knew what had been taken.

“I was like sobbing,” Harrison said. “It was such a violation that something was just ripped off my body.”

The tiny picture of 15-year-old Norma Kron, now somewhat yellow and slightly cracked, had lasted for nearly 80 years and survived multiple memorable events.

The photo of Kron standing in front of her father’s grocery store in New Albany, Indiana, in 1943 was first carried around by Harrison’s father, Benjamin Gardner. Fighting in WWII, Gardner stuck the photograph inside his boot and took it with him across Europe.

“That picture had been taken when she was 15 and my father was getting ready to go to Europe. He had been in the Army for a year, and he had met my mom and she gave him this picture with her address on the back,” Harrison said.

After he made it back home, they eventually stuck it in a family photo album.

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Benjamin Gardner and Norma Kron

Credit: Chris Harrison

Benjamin Gardner and Norma Kron

Credit: Chris Harrison

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Benjamin Gardner and Norma Kron

Credit: Chris Harrison

Credit: Chris Harrison

Harrison said several years ago her mother gave her the album, which included the small photograph. That album, which was stored in a bread box with other memorabilia, had gone through a flood soon after they moved to Utica, Indiana, near the Ohio River in 1964. Harrison decided she would take the photos out of the slightly water-damaged album and store them in a box.

In 2020, she decided to dig through the photos, get copies made and create albums for her siblings. But it wasn’t until the following year that she came across the picture of her smiling mother. She stuck it in her wallet with plans to get copies of it.

It ended up staying inside Harrison’s wallet for longer than expected and was the only picture she carried. Harrison said it was reassuring to have her mother with her.

“I liked carrying it around because whenever I saw it, it made me smile because she was smiling and she was not known for her smile. She had a rough life,” Harrison said.

So when Harrison lost it in Portland without having made a single copy, she was heartbroken.

She filed a police report the following day when she returned to Sandy Springs. Then she tried to move on.

But when she got a call from a stranger in late April claiming to have found her wallet, she was at a loss for words.

Randall Bair, who has some family in Georgia, had lived in Portland for about six months working for an excavation company. He said he found the wallet sitting on a branch in a tree in front of a McDonald’s.

“I was like, ‘That’s a lady’s wallet. Somebody got robbed.’ And then I was like, ‘Well, the least I can do is see if there’s identification or something.’ So I opened it and was like, ‘Man, of course it’s an older lady,’ and I know what it feels like to lose your wallet,” Bair said.

Bair said the strange occurrence was an opportunity for him to do a good deed. For him, it’s an incentive to keep helping others.

But Harrison didn’t quite believe Bair at first. He said he told her he would leave it at McDonald’s and then sent her the address. Harrison called the police and asked an officer to pick up the wallet.

Sure enough, it was there.

“It had been in that tree supposedly for all that eight months and it looked like it,” Harrison said. “It was dirty, nasty and paper things in there that were kind of messed up, but this picture wasn’t, it was tucked back under a flap and it didn’t get wet.”

She received the wallet just a few days before Mother’s Day, with the picture inside still exactly as she last saw it. No charges were ever filed in the case.

Harrison has since made several copies of the photograph, one of which is hanging in her home, and returned the original to a safe spot.

“It also gave me a new love for my mother,” she said, “because I feel like we were reunited in a way that we hadn’t been in a long time.”