Jeff Jardine

A face, a photo, a mystery for Ballico antique collector

This photo came with a picture frame Stephanie Telles of Ballico bought from an antique store in Modesto in the spring of 2014. She has always wondered about the sailor’s identity. It likely was colorized from a black-and-white photo provided by the Navy. She has posted on social media with hopes a family member will recognize him and want it back.
This photo came with a picture frame Stephanie Telles of Ballico bought from an antique store in Modesto in the spring of 2014. She has always wondered about the sailor’s identity. It likely was colorized from a black-and-white photo provided by the Navy. She has posted on social media with hopes a family member will recognize him and want it back. Stephanie Telles

UPDATED: The funeral for Gary Thompson begins at 2 p.m. Friday at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church cemetery in Hornitos.

From the emails, voicemails and other sources:

WHO IS HE? About a year ago, Stephanie Telles of Ballico went shopping in a Modesto antique store and found a picture frame to add to her collection.

It is a swing frame, on a hinge that allows the displayer to change the angle of the photo. This particular frame contained a photograph of a sailor. Like many from the World War II era, someone had taken the Navy-issue black-and-white portrait to an artist to be colorized, not unlike in concept what they do with black-and-white movies.

Telles found herself staring at the sailor’s boyish face – so youthful, so serious – and wondered about him: Who was he? What happened to him? Why would family no longer have the photo?

His name isn’t anywhere on the photo, only the words “eyes gray” handwritten on the back.

“I posted it on Facebook and on other social media,” she said, “in hopes somebody might recognize him. I’d like to get him back to this family. My dad was in the service. I’d want someone to get that picture back to me.”

So often, when a family member dies, boxes of photographs are discarded – at estate sales or left behind in an abandoned storage space to be sold to recoup rental costs.

This one surprised Telles, a collector, because it remained in such good shape. That, she said, indicates it probably remained in the frame undisturbed for a long, long time. A search of a book of photos of military personnel from the area who served during World War II turned up a couple of sailors who looked like him, but in different poses. Generally, the military took one portrait of a soldier, sailor or Marine and that became the official photo sent to their families and hometown newspapers. They didn’t do extensive portrait sessions akin to high school senior pictures.

Since the time she brought it home, the photo and frame have sat alongside the photo of her father, also a Navy man and also pictured in uniform. Family members would visit and ask who it was and how they were related.

Now, she said, it’s time for the sailor to go back home to his own family. If anyone recognizes him and knows of a family member, contact Telles at tellesranch@yahoo.com.

SADNESS – Last week, I wrote about the recent accident in Hornitos that left 59-year-old cowboy Gary Thompson of Escalon with a critical head injury. His accident was the third tragedy coming from the ranch, beginning when ranch owner Art Turner suffered a heart attack and died while getting ready to work cattle in September 2012.

Bob Wood, who worked with Turner at the ranch, built Turner’s coffin. Then, in March, a brain aneurysm struck Wood just as he, too, prepared to work cattle at the ranch. Friends including Thompson and relatives helped build Wood’s coffin in time for the March 27 funeral in Hornitos. Thompson led Wood’s riderless horse up the road to the cemetery.

Then, April 19, Thompson was knocked to the ground by the same horse at the same ranch and suffered the head injury. He died Monday at Doctors Medical Center, exactly a month to the day after Wood’s service. Another coffin to build, another funeral to schedule.

WELL, NOW ... My Sunday column focused on residents of Horseshoe Road east of Oakdale, who met last week to share their frustrations and fears about the explosion of almond orchards and wells drilled in their area. They vented in particular at Trinitas, an investment group that has planted thousands of acres of almonds on both sides of the Stanislaus River. To clarify, the well-drilling rig shown in a photo accompanying the column is on land owned by Virgil Thompson of Oakdale, not by Trinitas.

MAYS, McCOVEY, MODESTO – Received a great video from Joey Barney of Modesto. Converted from home movie film, it’s of an exhibition game or scrimmage against the Modesto Reds at the old Del Webb Field in the mid-1960s. The clip includes footage of Willie Mays, pitcher Ron Herbel warming up, and Willie McCovey circling the bases after a home run in front of a packed house in the old ballpark, long before it was rebuilt. Mays, in fact, is coaching first base. The sign for Al’s Drive-In, which was in the 700 block of McHenry Avenue, is visible on the wall behind the third-base dugout. Barney is the boy, ball cap on sideways, in the first few seconds of the video. He’s 55 now and looks to be about eight then.

We’ve posted the clip on Modbee.com and YouTube.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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