On April 11, 1951, sailor Val Gregoire, 18, was hit over the head while on shore leave in Boston. When he came to, his wallet — and his pants — were gone.
Gregoire's widow and five children were familiar with the story, which became part of family legend. But now they have proof. The wallet was discovered by a demolition worker at Boston's Paramount Theatre — 56 years to the day Gregoire lost it.
"I was stunned," said Jeannette Gregoire, 75, of Lewiston, who got a call from Kathy Bagen, the worker's wife. "How could this have survived?"
Richard Bagen of East Weymouth, Mass., was tearing down a wall when the wallet spilled out, his wife said.
There was no money in the wallet, but it contained Val's Navy ID, a copy of his Augusta birth certificate and more than a dozen photos. An Armed Forces Liberty Pass was dated "April 11, 1951," the same month and day Richard Bagen made his discovery.
"The date was what freaked me out," Kathy Bagen told the Sun Journal of Lewiston. "Maybe it was meant to be found."
She managed to track down Jeannette Gregoire and mailed the wallet to her.
The wallet contained several pictures of Val, his mom, friends and a laminated photo of Jeannette, then his best girl.
The couple eventually married and was six months shy of their 50th wedding anniversary in 2003 when Val died following complications from a kidney transplant. He was a retired firefighter in Lewiston.