Jeff Jardine

Few clues left in local story of found camera

From the e-mails and snail mail:

REPRINTS -- The Bee ran a front-page story Jan. 26 about a New York City couple who found a camera in the back of a taxi. They decided they would try to return the camera to its rightful owner, using the 350 photos and two videos in the camera as clues. Through perseverance, luck and some pretty good amateur detective work, they finally found the owner -- an Australian tourist who since had returned to the land Down Under. He got his camera back.

Melody Bold of Delhi is living a similar story. Over Christmas vacation, her two sons went with their grandparents to play in the snow, stopping along Highway 108 west of Pinecrest.

They found a Sony Cyber-shot camera lying in the snow. The battery had just enough power to give her an idea of when the photos, of what appeared to be a Latino family, were taken. The trail went cold right there.

"There is no identification on the camera," she wrote in an e-mail. "The battery is almost dead and I have no way to charge it, so I wasn't able to look for movies that might have voices and names on it. So many people go to the snow from all over the place, that there is no way to know where these folks are from. Any ideas? We'd love to return it to the family as it has Christmas and New Year's pictures on it and I'm sure they are very sad to have lost it."

She contacted the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department (533-5851), in case the owner had reported it missing. No such luck.

She also contacted Sony, giving the company the camera's serial number and her contact information. Sony, in turn, would try to inform the registered owner the camera had been found. That's assuming the owner registered for the warranty.

"Sony says it is now up to the owner to contact the local authorities who would contact me," Bold wrote.

You can admire Bold's desire to put the camera back into the hands of its owners. But unlike the New York camera caper, this one is still a frame or two shy of a happy ending.

DWINDLING NUMBER -- Filmmaker Ken Burns decided to do "The War" documentary, which aired on PBS last year, because he knew he couldn't wait much longer. America's World War II-era veterans are dying at a pace of 1,000 to 1,500 a day, according to various news agencies. If he didn't tell their stories now, Burns knew, those stories would soon go to the grave with them.

A microcosm of this can be found at Mr. T's Delicate Donut Shop in north Modesto, where groups of WWII veterans still meet daily, one session in the morning, another in the afternoon. They talk about anything and everything, including politics, their families and their war experiences.

In December 2006, I wrote that two members of the afternoon group had died the same day.

They lost another when Don Schulze died Jan. 21. Schulze earned ribbons and stars for serving in the Asiatic-Pacific and Philippine Liberation campaigns, along with other awards during WWII.

The Mr. T's group once boasted as many as 15 members in the morning and sometimes that many in the afternoon. Some vets, including Jim Sawyer, attended both sessions.

Now, members Don Basmajian and Bob Byers said, only about three or four veterans meet in the mornings, with about the same number in the afternoons.

IN THE RUNNING -- In November, I wrote about a TV crew from Sweden that planned to visit the United States in search of the most extraordinary American and

99 runners-up. As one possibility, I'd mentioned Nelson Hackett, a 95-year-old Modestan who rides his three-wheeled bicycle with his three-legged dog in the basket as far as Escalon and back.

Patterson's Mike Mattos, who owns and displays a number of military vehicles, nominated himself.

Consequently, Hackett and Mattos were interviewed by the Swedish crew when it came to the valley in January.

The crew rode along with Hackett as he pedaled through Modesto and visited with Mattos at his ranch in Patterson. Mattos said he hopes to get a copy of the show to air locally.

ANOTHER CYCLIST -- Also last year, I wrote about Bill Marble, a 61-year-old Modestan who had logged more than

44,000 miles on his bicycles since 1999.

Marble hopes to spend a month this summer participating in the Christian Reformed Church's Sea to Sea Bike Tour, which will raise money to fight poverty.

Beginning June 30, Marble wants to ride the first four legs from Seattle to Denver, a route that will cover 1,515 miles of the 3,750-mile trip scheduled to end in New Jersey in August. In the meantime, Marble is looking for a new job.

"The catch is that if I find employment, it is going to take a very special and unique employer to let an employee take a month off to be a part of this tour," he wrote in an e-mail.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or 578-2383.

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