A mysterious black-and-white photo of a Canadian sailor is back in the hands of its owner following detective work by a local couple that was featured in the Mirror.
Doug De’Ath – whose father, Arthur De’Ath, is the sailor in the picture – came forward after his mother saw the lost photo in the July 27 edition of the newspaper.
“I’m really glad to have it back,” said Doug. He noted that his parents, who live in Campbell River, would also be happy about the outcome.
He thanked Janet Kiel and Andreas Eggenberger, who searched for the photo’s owner after their four-year-old son Grayson found it tucked between the pages of a waiting room magazine. On Wednesday, he met the mystery-solving couple at the Alder Medical Clinic, where Grayson found the print in September.
“These guys went through all the effort, and it ended up where it belongs,” said Doug.
|This black-and-white print was found tucked in a magazine at a local clinic. It was reunited with its owner, Doug De’Ath, after his mother noticed it in the July 27 edition of the Mirror. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror|
Kiel and Eggenberger were glad to have things straightened out.
“I was pleasantly surprised and happy to hear that the mystery had been solved,” Kiel said, adding that the experience was an education in naval history as they learned about HMCS New Glasgow, the name of the ship printed on the sailor’s cap in the photo.
“We’re happy that it worked out,” said Eggenberger. He credited Grayson with holding onto the photo as they left the clinic last September.
“If it wasn’t for Grayson we probably never would’ve gotten that picture back,” he said.
Eggenberger posted the photo to Facebook last September, and it initially attracted little attention. But last month, a Facebook post by Kiel was shared 386 times. She went on to contact military museums and chapters of the Royal Canadian Legion in places as far as Halifax. The photo has also been featured on several military history websites.
Even the official Instagram account for the London Drugs photo lab got in on the action, asking followers if they knew the identity of the mystery man. And a feature article in the Mirror asking readers for clues was shared on Facebook more than 270 times.
But it was a physical copy of the newspaper’s July 27 edition that got the attention of Doug’s mother, Carol De’Ath. She recognized the photo when it appeared in the paper. A few other people around town also recognized him, she said.
“I knew it was my picture because mine’s still in the frame on my dresser,” she said.
She had made copies of the print at the London Drugs photo lab for Doug and his two siblings in Victoria. Theirs were accounted for, so Doug knew it was likely his.
After searching his home, Doug decided to contact the Mirror.
“I spent a couple days looking for it, and was kinda choked that I’d actually lost track of it,” said Doug.
It seems that someone had slipped the photo between the pages of a magazine, possibly a copy of Legion or National Geographic.
|Arthur and Carol De’Ath at their Campbell River home. Arthur, the sailor from the mystery photo, is shown holding his old navy cap, which he passed along to Grayson, the boy who found his photo. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror|
Doug lost track of the photo, and eventually gave a stack of magazines to the Alder Clinic, including the one containing his father’s photo.
Arthur, who was born in 1933 in a small town in rural Manitoba, downplayed his military service out of respect for other veterans, since he didn’t see combat.
“I joined in ‘54 and I missed the Korean War by a year,” he said.
After basic training in Cornwallis, N.S., he served on a number of vessels, including the New Glasgow. He spent five years in the navy, and then worked for years as an entrepreneur.
At his Campbell River home, Arthur asked if this Mirror reporter would see little Grayson again, because he had something for him.
Arthur walked down the hallway and returned with a navy cap – this one white, for summer service, but otherwise resembling the black one in the photo, bearing the words HMCS New Glasgow. “
“If you run across that kid again, give him that hat,” said Arthur. “If he’s that excited about a picture, he’ll be really excited about a hat.”