A Washington woman recovered a jewelry box full of childhood memories last month that had been misplaced during a move almost 30 years ago.

In 1991, Michelle Stark and her family were moving from Hampton, Va., after her husband Ray Stark Jr. had completed his service in the U.S. Air Force during Operation Desert Storm. When the movers came, Michelle Stark removed some valuables from her jewelry box and put it in with the other things to be packed and moved by the military. 

She had intended to put the jewelry box in the car, but the need to transport a car seat, stroller, and crib for their daughter, Chelsea, meant there was not enough space. 

“We came to Pekin to live with my parents until we could find a house,” said Stark. “We stored our things in a friend’s garage. Three months later, we bought a house and were moving in and found out we didn’t have the jewelry box. That box was always on our minds, because a huge piece of my childhood was in it.”

Two items in the missing box that held special significance for Stark were a gold-plated necklace with an alphabet charm and a pendant depicting Jesus on one side and Mary on the other.

The same year that the Starks were moving, Bobby Morrison was transferring from Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco, Calif. to Chicago Recruiting Battalion to work as an Army recruiter. 

“I was going through my belongings from delivery and discovered a box that wasn’t mine,” said Morrison in a December 2018 message to Cynthia Hinderliter, Pekin Community High School instructional technology chair, who manages the high school’s Facebook pag. “I never found out who the box belonged to, but I would like to return it to its owner. It’s a jewelry box, and I have accumulated some potential info about the owner. I’m hoping I can provide some info based on jewelry pieces inside and this person can be found, and I can get her keepsakes she thought lost.”

Morrison provided Hinderliter with pictures that included a 1985 Pekin Community High School senior locket monogrammed with the initials “MRM,” a locket and a charm that said band and orchestra.

“At first, the initials (Morrison) gave me (on the senior charm) were wrong,” said Hinderliter. “He was reading the initials left to right. But in those kinds of monograms, the initial of the first name is on the left, the middle initial is on the right and the initial for the last name is in the middle. So, once I looked at that piece of jewelry, I knew he had been looking for the wrong last name all along.”

By looking through the 1985 Pekin Community High School yearbook, Hinderliter was able to locate Michelle Marie Rockhold (Stark’s maiden name), who had been in band and orchestra. A Dec. 4 Facebook post on the school’s page requesting information received replies from Stark’s former friends and classmates that helped locate her.

“I was sitting at work when my phone blew up with calls from people wanting me to call the high school,” said Stark. “I thought it was a prank at first. But I got hold of Cynthia, and she was amazing. She had already gotten the background information on (Morrison).”

Stark contacted Morrison, who asked her to describe some things in the box. She desperately wanted the box to be hers but wasn’t sure about all the items that were in the box until he asked her about the Jesus and Mary pendant, which she described perfectly. 

“Bobby knew it was mine,” said Stark. “My mother gave it to me when I was a child, and I looked at it often.” 

The long-lost box of memories was delivered to Stark Dec. 12. In the 28 years since its disappearance, it had traveled with Morrison from Chicago to Clarksville, Tenn. to Dayton, Ohio. 

“He could have thrown that stuff away,” said Stark. “He could have given it to Goodwill. He didn’t. He kept every single item intact, wrapped it up and took it with him every time he moved.”