LAGUNA BEACH (CBSLA.com) — The story begins with a Laguna Beach homeowner finding a rusty box filled with memorabilia belonging to a Marine from Orange County.
The Marine was named John Ivans Taylor. And that’s all Tom Valter had to go on. A name.
He found the box 12 years ago and he’s been looking for the rightful owner ever since. “What would you call this? It’s a reverse treasure hunt. So I could take a treasure and give it back to somebody,” said Valter.
Inside the box, pictures dating back to 1951, military papers, medals and even Taylor’s mother’s will.
In mid-March, CBS2/KCAL9 aired Valter’s story and his wish to get the property back to Taylor or his family.
Andrea Fujii, reporting for CBS2 Friday, said 83-year-old genealogist Mickie Watson was watching that story. “I just wrote the name down , put it on the table, and that started it,” said Watson.
Watson spent many hours on line researching. “I wanted to be a detective when I was a little kid,” she said, matter-of-fact.
She discovered Corporal John Taylor passed away in 1991. But she also found his only living relative in the area — his nephew, Larry Busby.
“Uncle John was like a big kid, he was always there with us,” says Busby.
But through the years, Busby said he’d lost touch with his uncle and never knew the box of memorabilia existed. Until now.
Of the rusty box he says, “It brings back a flood of memories.”
For Watson, finding Busby wasn’t enough. She wanted to also know how the box ended up in Valter’s house.
Watson found that Busby’s cousin once lived in the home. “It’s amazing what she was able to do,” Busby says, “And how she was able to bring all of us together just by sitting there on that computer.”
Valter says the story couldn’t have had a better ending. “This is exactly what I wanted to see. That it was handed over to somebody who cared about this.”