When the Roaches lost their leather-bound wedding album, they thought they’d never see it again. But with the help of a thoughtful stranger and a local newspaper, they were reunited with their irreplaceable photos.
Couple reunited by letter after 63 years
"It's a miracle to have it back," Patrick Roach told BBC News. The couple can't recall when or how the book was misplaced, but a lot has happened in the 61 years since their wedding day at Hall Green Parish Church. It's possible the book was lost during one of their moves in the 1960s. The couple relocated to Ireland and South Africa for Patrick's work before settling in Staffordshire. Somewhere between the couple's raising their two children and becoming great-grandparents of four, their treasured wedding photos landed in a scrap basin in a Birmingham-area steel company. Years later, they ended up in the hands of Tina Bradley.
“I think my dad found it on a skip and thought it was a shame because it was somebody’s wedding album,” Bradley, a 56-year-old salesperson, told the Birmingham Mail, in a plea to find the album's rightful owners. “He must have brought it home to reunite it with its owners like I’m trying to do now.”
Bradley discovered the photos while cleaning out her father's shed a month after he died at age 83. Bradley took it upon herself to bring closure to the photo mystery, in honor of her late father, a World War II veteran who, as Bradley put it, was “on the right side of everything.”
On June 28, 2013, exactly 61 years after the Roaches' wedding day, a few of their photos were published in the Mail, along with Bradley's appeal for information on the mystery couple.
The Roaches today. (Photo courtesy of Birmingham Post)
Images of the couple cutting a three-tiered cake and standing with their wedding party outside of the church, were shown along with a hotline number for readers to call.
(Courtesy of Birmingham Mail)
With gratitude and a bittersweet remembrance, couple revisited the images. "Looking through it and seeing all those people, so many of them have passed on, it brings a tear to your eye as well as remembering the happy occasion," Patrick, now 84, told BBC News.
"We can't thank the woman [who found it] enough," added Rose Scott. "We're so touched by the effort she made to track us down."
In the past few years, the Internet and local media have made it easy to create a virtual lost-and-found for wedding photos. Despite the newfound wave of retouched wedding images, photobombs and flash mobs, the precious nature of photographs still holds value—even to strangers. In 2011, a workman found a wedding portrait that dated back to 1925 behind a hotel sofa. After a public appeal to find the owner, a woman identified the bride and groom as her parents. Around the same time, a man was reunited with a 1986 wedding photo he thought he’d lost in a flood, after a good Samaritan found the tattered image in the mud and contacted local media.
Last year, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a Connecticut woman found a wedding album from 1962 near her home. It belonged to Betty Elio, 82, whose belongings had largely washed away in the storm. Elio was reunited with the album after one of her relatives spotted it on the news. In an interview with the Hartford Courant, which had posted photos from her album online, Elio pored over the images of her wedding day and said, "This is like walking back in my life.”