At the desk, 9:54 a.m.
f you knew me well, you might remember that about five years ago, I left my home in Denver to drive to Dana Point. My Aunt Mary Ellen had died the year before. A hoarder, it took her good friends Trudy and Al more than a year to clean up everything. As a hoarder, she valued things and in her will she gave specific things to specific people. I was specifically supposed to get her letters, her photos, and this picture.
It's a very old copy of an etching created in the 1600s of a star map. here's a picture of the painting when it had all of it's colors.
Most of her 'stuff' has sat in my garage since I brought it back. In the last month or so, I've gotten up the gumption and courage to start going through it, which led me to this painting.
It's actually fairly pretty.
I knew just who might like it - my friend Theresa the Tarot Lady. Over the last few months, Theresa has been teaching me the tarot. I thought she might really enjoy it.She said she'd take a look.
It took me until last weekend to get the painting out of the broken frame. I pulled out the pins in the back of the painting, lifted the cardboard and set it aside. I proceeded to roll up the canvas. I turned to ask the husband if he wanted to keep the frame (to put on our fences - they work really well to help extend the growing season), when I saw the look on his face.
"What?" I asked.
"Do you know what that is?"
"What what is?"
"That," he pointed.
Under the star map lived a gorgeous, hand signed, original photograph of the building of the Spruce Goose.
"I've never seen that photo..." he started.
I know he continued talking about the photo. To him it was a cool, probably rare, certainly big photo of a historic event.
To me, it was something all together different. In an instant, I knew my Aunt has stolen this picture, probably from her father, but quite possibly from someone else. She'd covered the picture with the map of the stars as a way to hide her theft and also keep it close at hand.
"Let's just see if we can find the photo on the Internet," the husband said.
I looked and didn't find it. He looked and found a small 8X10 copy of the photograph for sale at EBay for $300+. The photo we have an original and is 16x19.
What would you do with your Aunt's theft?
I sent the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum an email and waited. No response.
Honestly, I didn't think giving away my Aunt's stolen property would be easy or straightforward. She'd been hiding this photo in plain sight for a long time, possibly 50 years.
So I called and left a message for collections. A few hours later, I received this email:
Thank you for contacting the Evergreen Museum concerning the photograph and considering us for your donation. We are currently in the process of cataloging the Hughes Aircraft archives including the more than 9,000 photographs of the development and building of the H-4 Hughes Flying Boat. At this point, this photograph has not been found as part of that collection nor in related photographs, donated by individuals.
Your photograph of the H-4 is obviously an aerial shot of the boat positioned in the graving dock on Terminal Island in Long Beach. The H-4 is nearing finally reassembly after its move from the Hughes facility in Culver City. This would place the time frame in mid-1947 and prior to the single flight in November of that year.
We do appreciate your donation offer and look forward to including your Aunt's photograph as part of the Hughes Flying Boat Photograph Collection.
I could not be more thrilled! To right this wrong, all I have to do is package up the photo and send it off. That will most likely happen this weekend.
Maybe it all worked out in the end. Maybe my Aunt stole the photograph so that one day it could be preserved by this museum.
Nah, my Aunt stole it to fill whatever hole was permanently stamped in her soul. I hope that she can rest a tiny bit more at piece knowing this item is on it's way to a safe harbor.
Rest in Peace Aunt Mary Ellen.