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Box of momentoes returned to family members

News Photo by Diane Speer Judith Motley of Alpena looks through some old documents, vintage photographs and Bibles returned this week to her family after many years of being stowed in an old filing cabinet inside a home in Detroit. Those who came across the items while cleaning out the house made a concerted effort to get them back to the rightful owners. Brad Wheelock, also of Alpena, facilitated the process.

Even though it still was early by many people’s standards, Judith Motley of Alpena could hardly wait until 8 a.m. Wednesday to place her first telephone call of the day.

Earlier that same morning, she’d learned through an Alpena News article that a long lost box full of her family’s momentoes recently was unearthed in a home in Detroit. She was calling Brad Wheelock, also of Alpena, to claim it.

“She told me she couldn’t stand it, but made herself wait until 8 a.m.,” said Wheelock, who came into possession of the cardboard box after it was found tucked in an old file cabinet in the home of a now deceased brother-in-law.

Wheelock theorized that Paul Shanaver, his brother-in-law, originally purchased the file cabinet years ago at an auction in Alpena, transported it back to Detroit and then just left the box that came with it inside one of the file cabinet drawers. His nieces, he said, discovered the box earlier this year while cleaning out their late parents’ home in Detroit and asked him for help in returning the momentoes to their rightful owners.

At the suggestion of Northeast Michigan Genealogical Society President RoseMarie Guthrie, Wheelock contacted the newspaper earlier this week for some assistance.

According to Motley, it was her sister-in-law, Carol Marchlewski of Bay City, who first noticed the newspaper story online early Wednesday morning. She in turn, immediately called her sister, Ann Linneman of Oscoda. Both Marchlewski and Linneman are nieces of the late Wesley L. and Dorothy (Miller) King, who originally owned all the items contained in the box. Motley’s husband, Eugene, is their brother and a nephew of the Kings. All three also are the grandchildren of James Miller, whose obit was pictured in the newspaper article.

“My sister-in-law, Ann, has been working on genealogy for years,” said Motley, a long-time Alpena News subscriber. “This is the missing piece she needed.”

Motley also said she waited as long as she could, and then put in the early morning call to Wheelock to claim the box of family treasures. For his part, Wheelock didn’t waste any time getting it to her.

“I brought it right over to her,” Wheelock said, an hour after he first talked to Motley by phone. “It’s really nice for us to get these materials back where they belonged.”

Ultimately, Motley plans to turn the entire box over today to her sister-in-law, Linneman.

“Ann is making a trip up to Alpena to get this treasured box. She said she already had something scheduled Wednesday, but she wanted to know if I was free today,” said Motley. “She’s the one who has been working on the family genealogy.”

Linneman’s excitement level over the unexpected find is running equally high.

“I’ve been working on the family genealogy for two years. This really is a treasure trove,” she said, clearly enthused over the find. “I am really excited and looking forward to going through the box.”

Although Linneman said she has maintained an ancestry.com account, she hasn’t gotten as far as she’d hoped on her family research efforts. She said this box of death certificates, newspaper clippings, vintage photographs and other family documents will help immensely.