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Full Circle

cross posted to rural_ruin

Please take a look at this post first and then read on.

The post was about an abandoned house I came across in Unionville, VA and some family photos I found there. I placed the following postscript on that post:

"Postscript - Over the past month or so, the photos have been bothering me. I figured someone from the family needed to have them. So I searched the local newspaper obituaries online and came up with plenty of Lynch's but none that mentioned Pearl or Joe. Then I placed a query on a few genealogy boards for the area. No responses. Then I put a classified add in the local newspapers asking if anyone was a relative of Pearl or Joe Lynch. Nothing so far. Last night, I emailed the director of the Orange County, VA Chamber of Commerce. She was delighted to help and passed my request on to a local historian who is now doing research on the family to see if there are any living relatives around. If the house has been destroyed by now, I'll just give them copies of my photos."

The local historian who's name is Frank Walker, contacted me a few days later via email. He was not familiar with the family but put me in touch with people who might be. And he kept in contact about my progress. I was finally put in touch with a lady named Rebecca Coleman who runs the Orange County (VA) African American History Society. As it turned out, they had been conducting research into the role of African Americans in the history of the Orange County School system. She also found a friend of the Lynch family who filled me in on some vital information. Pearl it seems had been a guidance counselor. Her husband Joe had been a Principal at nearby Lightfoot Elementary School.

Pearl had died some hears ago and Joe and his son Joe, Jr. had sold the white house and moved to Baltimore. The friend was able to give me Mr. Lynch's phone number and address in Baltimore. So on October 4, I sent a priority mailing to Mr. Lynch Sr. I waited a week and hearing nothing, I asked Rebecca Coleman to see if she could find any information on Joe Lynch, Jr. They located another family friend who was able to give me the address for the son. I then sent him a similar letter via Priority Mail. And then I waited some more.

Tonight when I got home, there was a message on my phone from Joe Lynch, Sr. I called him back and we talked for over an hour. He was very surprised to have received my letter and impressed that I went so far to have something returned. He had no idea that those photos had gotten left behind and he related a strange string of facts to me. Back in the 80's, he and his wife Pearl, had moved out of the white house and into the larger brick house on the same property. Over the years, they rented the white house to three different families, none of which told them anything about a stack of books, old papers and photos. So the reason it was left behind was they didn't know it existed. In 1992, Pearl passed on and Mr. Lynch and his son moved on to Baltimore. Shortly thereafter, they sold both houses as a package to a buyer in New Jersey and neither house has been occupied since.

Mr. Lynch turned out to be a fascinating man. He had been principal at Lightfoot Elementary for 6 years and then he was promote to Assistant Principal at Orange County High School. This was the year that they integrated the schools. Ever seen "Remember the Titans" That scene was repeated all over the State of Virginia at the same time and this man would have been right in the middle of that every day. year later, he became the principal of Prospect Heights High School in the same school district.

The lady who had provided me with Mr. Lynch's address and phone had been a math teacher at the time and a close friend of the Lynch's. Mr. Lynch very much wanted the photos and other documents to be returned to him so I've asked the local contacts there to retrieve them for me and get them to him. If they do not exist anymore, I am to print copies of my digitals and send them to him instead.

The Orange County African American History Society is doing a story about the Lynch's place in the history of the schools and would like me to contribute concerning my find.

The odd thing for me about this whole thing is that over the years in going to High School in Northern Virginia and a few years of college at Virginia tech, and subsequent visits to friends all over VA, I must have driven past that place dozens of times and never gave it a second glance. But that day, it called to me. It was like the photos wanted to be found by someone who might eventually do something about them.

It doesn't happen very often. But sometimes you get the chance to reunite someone with their past.




( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 23rd, 2007 11:48 am (UTC)
That's so nice of you to go through so much effort to help the people be reunited with their special memories. Very nice of you! And it's a wonderful story and it seems it has come out so well. I certainly hope they are still there.
Oct. 23rd, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC)
I do to. I have a feeling they are but that there is definitely a window of time when someone could still go get them. But in the event they are gone, I can provide the family with copies of my photos.

Oct. 23rd, 2007 01:08 pm (UTC)
Now I know why I wasn't seeing you around last night lol
Oct. 23rd, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)
This is exactly why. I was calling people and telling them about the whole thing. I was pretty excited. Can you tell?

Oct. 24th, 2007 12:48 am (UTC)
You are a very cool human being. Tomyris
Oct. 24th, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)
Thank you love. I shot that last year when I left your place bound for that wedding in NC, the first time I was out. Slowly but surely I'm working my way down to the photos Eric and I shot.

Oct. 24th, 2007 11:23 am (UTC)
That's awesome!
Oct. 24th, 2007 02:50 pm (UTC)

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )