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Man Surprised To Get Back Wallet He Lost In Burglary In 1970

A Westmont, N.J., man experienced a blast from the past by recovering a wallet that was stolen from him nearly 50 years ago.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 78-year-old Dennis Helmer got the big surprise last week, when he received a phone call from Don Williams of Bellmawr informing him that the wallet had been found.

Helmer, a retired Marine Corps Reserve member who used to work in marketing at the firm of Glaxo-Smith-Kline, did not even remember having lost it. He initially asked Williams, “What wallet?”

Suspecting that he was the victim of a prank call, Helmer almost hung up the phone. But he became convinced that Williams was telling the truth when the caller described the contents of the wallet.

There was an identification card that the U.S. Selective Service issued in 1957, a St. Christopher medal, a 1956 receipt from Drexel University for a $168 tuition payment, pictures of teenaged girls, and a photo of a young Helmer and his date at the Camden Catholic High School prom.

The girl he took to the dance was not Mary Ann, the woman who later became his wife. They have been married for 54 years, with three adult children.

Williams and his wife, Stacey, got in their car and traveled about four miles to the Helmers’ home to return the long-lost wallet. Williams told the grateful Helmer that while renovating his house following a fire, a contractor discovered the leather money holder hidden above a ceiling.

Someone also had stashed a 1945 newspaper and some books in the hiding place. When Williams looked through the wallet, he saw Helmer’s name. He searched the Internet to find out where the property’s owner lived and found a phone number.

The Helmers, who were shocked and intrigued by the incident, got to work trying to figure out how the wallet had been lost in the first place. They determined that it happened in May 1970, when a 31-year-old Helmer and his wife went to his parents’ anniversary celebration at his sister’s Westmont home.

While the parents were away from their house for the party, a burglar broke in and stole jewelry. The thief also apparently went into Helmer’s former bedroom and found the wallet he had used while in high school.

However, there were still some unanswered questions. Mary Ann Helmer recalled that she asked herself, “Why would the thief stick the wallet into the ceiling of a house?”

She said she also wondered “why were there so many pictures of girls in my husband’s wallet.” Helmer explained: “These were girls I dated before I met my wife. It brought back a lot of pleasant memories.”

Williams and Helmer immediately formed a bond that they expect to develop into an enduring friendship. “I was hugging him and saying, ‘You’re a good guy,’” Helmer told the Inquirer.

He said he was particularly grateful to recover the St. Christopher medal, which his grandmother gave to him. It now resides in Helmer’s current wallet. “She said to always have it with me,” he remembered.

Source: Philly
Photo: ABC 6, Emma Wister

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