This Random Act of Small Town Kindness Will Warm Your Heart

After a photo negative was found in a secondhand suitcase, the residents of Almonte, Ontario, stopped at nothing to get it back to its original owners.

A few years after the death of my dad, Basil O’Keefe, my mom moved away from the family farm near Almonte, Ontario, into her first apartment. She was 82. As a family, we thought it would be easier for her not to have to drive for groceries and appointments, and she would also be closer to her sister and friends. We were also concerned that she was spending too much time on her own and hoped that this move would widen her social circle.

As she and I sorted through her belongings in preparation for the move, Mom shared with me all kinds of stories about her and my father’s life together. We missed him terribly.

Once we were done, we drove in to town and left the discarded belongings at The Hub—Almonte’s secondhand store—so that they could be resold and the money would go to charity.

A week later, we opened up our local paper and there in black and white was a four-by-six-inch photo of my father, with a story to accompany it.

A local gentleman had gone to The Hub and bought one of Mom’s old suitcases. When he went through the suitcase at home, he found a black-and-white negative inside a tattered envelope with the word “Daddy” written in pencil on the front.

Knowing that this photo certainly meant something to someone, he took it to the Almonte Gazette and asked if they would publish it in order to return the negative to its rightful owner. The paper did just that and their story asked readers to contact them if they knew who “Daddy” was. Immediately, the calls starting coming in fast and furious; readers knew the man in the picture. It was their brother, their uncle, their brother-in-law, their neighbour, their friend, their cousin, their favourite bus driver. The staff at the Gazette were astonished by the response.

Mom and I went to the Gazette right away to claim our negative and thank the staff for taking such good care of it. They also gave us the name of the man who had found the negative, and we called him and thanked him for reuniting Mom, Daddy and me.

The small town of Almonte really did go that extra mile for us and we sure appreciated it. The move wasn’t easy on either of us and we were always second-guessing whether it was the right decision. The fact that a complete stranger was willing to take the time to return that one little negative meant the world to us. We really believed that it was Daddy’s way of telling us everything would be okay.

Mom eventually moved into a nearby nursing home. She passed away in November 2017, at 97, and until then hardly a day went by that she did not look at, in her words, “that famous picture of Daddy,” on her bedside table.

Next, check out more extraordinary real-life stories about the kindness of strangers.

Originally Published in Our Canada