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Family Photo Album Found At Flea Market Comes Home


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As Andy Castellano was browsing a Lynchburg flea market on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, an old photo album caught his eye.

He flipped through and noticed old black-and-white photos of Virginia Beach, where he grew up, and other photos of people in military uniform from World War II, an era that still draws him to him when he prowls the streets. flea markets.

“I like to look for something older, something unique,” he said in an email, introducing himself and this story.

The man selling it had no connection to the album and was just selling stuff he had acquired wholesale. He asked very little for the album — Castellano said he paid $20 for the album and a few other items — so Castellano took it home with no particular plans.

“I figured I just gotta get it and watch it,” he said.

As he began to take a closer look at the album, Castellano discovered that the photos appeared to cover a period from 1939 to 1947 and appeared to be a teenage girl’s scrapbook of her life and family. At the end of the scrapbook, he found the girl’s 1928 baptismal certificate with her name – Anna Alfreda Brauer – along with her parents’ name and the name of the church, St. John’s Evangelical Church, now St. John’s United Church of Christ at Stuart Circle.

He searched online for the father’s name, found his obituary and home address on Monument Avenue, which he also researched, and determined to be the same house in the photos in the scrapbook.

He also researched the girl’s name and found her obituary. Anna Brauer Oxenham died in 2020 aged 93.

With all the information he had, Castellano didn’t hesitate to try to contact the family, although, he said, you never know in cases like this if the family even wants their artifacts back. lost.

So he called St. John’s and told the woman who answered what he had. She confirmed that the Brauers were an important family in the history of the church and said she would contact a family member.

“Within 10 minutes she was calling me,” Castellano said, “her” being Beth Oxenham, the eldest of Anna’s five children. “She was excited.”

Yes, she was.

“I’m delighted,” Oxenham said.

She said her mother, one of six Brauer children, started the album in the late 1930s while in high school at Thomas Jefferson High. She maintained it until 1947, the year she graduated from Mary Washington College and married Thomas H. Oxenham Jr.

The album included many photos at their home on Monument Avenue, she said, as well as in Virginia Beach when her mother visited family there.

After talking to her siblings, they believe the album has only been missing for about three years. They theorize it got mixed in with household items that were sold when their mother downsized to move from her condominium to an assisted living facility in 2019. Children – the photo album became misplaced and lost.

Until Castellano found him.

“I was flabbergasted that at first he was interested enough to even look” through the album to find the clues that led back to the family, she said. The album appeared to have sustained water damage and “wasn’t in great condition”.

“So for going through all this trouble to find us,” she said. “It was so amazing that there were still people in this world who would take all this time and effort to find us.”

He wouldn’t even let her pay him back what he paid for the album, she said.

“My family is from Italy and Poland, so I don’t have a lot of photos from the 1930s and 1940s of my family,” Castellano, vice president and financial adviser at Truist Investment Services Group, told Short Pump. “I just thought that if someone came across an album that belonged to my family, I would appreciate having it.”

The photo album proved to be an unexpected Christmas gift for the family, and can now be enjoyed not only by Oxenham’s five children, but also by 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren and generations to come, which is really gratifying for Castellano. to know.

The album itself?

“I’m going to keep it,” Beth Oxenham said. “It came back to me, so it stays with me.”



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