Mar 20

KCAL9 / CBS2 News: Watch the touching reunion of Tonya with her Photos

CBS 2 Los Angeles News VideoAs a follow-up to the initial story, Rachel returns to Richard and Kelly’s home to capture the moment the photos are reunited with their owner:


Mar 20

The Full Story: How Uniting the Owner with Her Photos Happened

Tonya and the CBS 2 News VanWe couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.  The photos have been reunited with their owner, Tonya, thanks to the help of Reporter Rachel Kim of CBS News Los Angeles. We are grateful to Rachel and CBS for carrying our story so that it could reach so many more people.  Here’s how it all happened.

Immediately after finding the photographs on February 22, 2015, we wrote the blog and posted links to the images across the internet: on lost and found forums, craigslist, Twitter, Facebook groups, and more. Four weeks later, there were still no leads.  About then, Rachel was using her reporter skills, found our ad in the craiglist lost and found section, and reached out to us.

Rachel and her videographer, Angie, braved rush hour traffic out of Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 19, to hold the interview at our home in Garden Grove, Ca. We really enjoyed our time with them. It was like we were friends playing detective and curiously sorting through the photos.  The interview aired that very evening.  Watch it here on CBS News Los Angeles’ website.

It was just 20 hours after the broadcast that a woman named Martha, a cousin “in-law” to Tonya’s niece Teresa, recognized her cousins and aunt in the photos. She lives in Buena Park and saw the CBS online video of the interview.  Martha recounted how a Buena Park Facebook group shared KCAL 9 News’ story.  She said that she rarely clicks on human interest stories in Facebook, but made an exception for Rachel’s interview, maybe because of the Buena Park aspect and the thought that she might recognize someone. The advertisement before the feature almost made her close out the link, but she persisted and started to watch the news report.

It was then that the double take happened. “Was that my cousin Teresa I just saw?” she thought to herself. She rewound and paused to get a good look. Her heart started pounding.  Martha then went to her brother for confirmation, and he felt certain it was Teresa and her brothers as well.

The story on CBS News’ site provided a link to this blog.  Martha was able to send an email to us through the contact page. She stated that she recognized her family in the photos and that she forwarded them the link to the story.  Kelly was so excited about the news in the email we received that she asked Martha to pass on our phone number right away.

It was funny because Teresa, who moved from So Cal to Oregon in 2006, did not watch the video right away because she didn’t realize what Martha was trying to communicate about its significance.  It was the second message from Martha to Teresa that contained our phone number and a note to contact the woman in the video who had the photos that made Teresa realize there was something more to it.

That’s when things started getting crazy. The links to the video were flying between family members as well as text message and calls.  Teresa called Kelly right away, now almost 24 hours after the network TV broadcast. Teresa was in tears, she was so overjoyed at seeing photos of her family and, especially, her grandmother. Kelly and Teresa rejoined calling each other by Skype video shortly after that initial call. They talked for 40 minutes on screen with each other.  Kelly held up photos to the webcam and asked questions to satisfy her curiosity and listen to Teresa’s stories and cherished memories.

When discussing how and when the photos were lost, it was initially believed that these were Teresa’s mother’s, Crystal’s, photos.  Those photos were lost when hard times caused her to lose her storage unit where the photos were kept. The big mystery was that the storage unit had been lost about nine years prior. It didn’t make sense that the photos would show up scattered in a street nine years later.  Crystal’s sister (Teresa’s aunt), Tonya, lives in Buena Park, but she denied ever having their mother’s photos.  Tonya didn’t get the opportunity to see the photos online because of her schedule working at the hospital. Had she seen the photos, she would have recognized that they were not her mom’s, but hers. The story gets crazier because the thought never occurred to Tonya that the photos could have been hers since she didn’t even know they had been lost!

If you are still following this, congratulations. Teresa, Crystal, and we went to bed Thursday night all believing the long lost storage unit photos had miraculously appeared. Certainly the nine year disappearance was a huge mystery to be solved, but it almost didn’t matter since the prodigal photos had returned. Stranger than fiction certainly.

Friday morning, we woke up to a text from Teresa that the mystery had been solved. Tonya was able to view the photos online and instantly recognized that they were hers.  The explanation was clear but surprising. On February 17, Tonya was hit by another driver where it caused her trunk to open and the photos to be thrown from her vehicle. She had recently transferred them from an album to a plastic photo box for ease of moving them without the heavy book. Her car was totaled and towed away. Tonya went to retrieve her belongings from the car in the tow yard, but she didn’t notice that the bag with the photo box was missing.

Five days after the accident, on February 22, is when we were geocaching in Buena Park and found the photos on the street and sidewalk. We imagined that, at some point, another vehicle struck the photo box and caused the photos to go flying. A low pressure system moved in and the wind became strong just before a sizable rainstorm arrived the evening of Feb 22. The photos were spread over a half mile, mostly in the gutter and on the sidewalk and business frontage landscaping.

As we were picking up the photos, one woman with her baby in a large stroller was walking north towards us.  She had already passed half the photos on the block behind her but then saw us gathering them all up.  She started picking the ones up around her.  As we met up, she asked if the photos were ours. Kelly explained that they weren’t but they looked like family photos that someone might have lost and that maybe we could locate the owner. She commented that it was thoughtful of us and wished us luck.

Knowing, now, that the photos were out there for five days, we find it shocking that someone else had not picked them up by then. Why could that be?  Do people lack curiosity to the world around them to notice the photos there at all? Did most assume it was just trash?  Are they pessimistic to the idea that the owner could be found?  Did some of them just think that it wasn’t not their problem? Regardless of why nobody had picked them up by then, at least we did at that point.

Fast-forwarding back to when the mystery of the owner had been solved, Friday March 20, a day and a half after the broadcast, Tonya got our number from her niece Teresa and called Kelly directly. Luckily, the hospital where Tonya worked was only minutes from our house.  We made a plan to meet with Tonya that evening on her way home at our house.

We told Rachel the good news. She was so excited and happy to hear of the success. She asked to join us Friday evening with a cameraman so she could be there when we handed the photos to Tonya. The happy reunion came together that night and it was captured and broadcast on the KCAL 9 News and CBS 2 News Los Angeles the same night.  Watch the rebroadcast online at CBS 2 Los Angeles website here. 

It was extremely touching to see how much the photos meant to Tonya.  It was a great pleasure to have helped her in that way.  We wish we had discovered the photos sooner and saved more of them but at least we were able to find as many as we did.

It’s wild thinking back on the events that strung together to this day: We would have never been brought to that spot if it wasn’t for the existence of geocaching, the treasure hunt game. The photos, having been out in the elements for five days had only had two or three hours left to be rescued before the heavy downpour of rain would have destroyed them.  We were there that day because we postponed our geocaching weekend by one week due to Kelly’s grandmother’s funeral the week before.  Rachel, and her curious reporter nature, stayed up late one evening to look for interesting stories in Lost and Found postings. And lastly, Martha made an exception to watching shared human interest videos on Facebook and almost aborted watching it out not willing to endure a video advertisement.

This story could have ended so many different ways, but  we don’t think it could have been much rewarding than the way it did.

As Kelly put it, “It doesn’t take a lot to do something kind for someone else, but it could mean a lot for them.”

Mar 20

Breaking News – Stay tuned! Owner has been found


It’s been a crazy day. After Rachel Kim’s KCAL9 exclusive story aired, a massive chain reaction started when one member of the family, Martha, recognized her cousin and aunt in some of the photos.

There was some initial confusion as to which one of the family members was the one who lost the photos, but we know who she is now. Facebook shares and telephone calls were happening so rapidly, it was hard for  and us to field all the calls, texts, and messages!

We’ll share the story soon as we can connect with the family member who lost the photos.

Stay tuned!

Mar 19

Lost Photos Buena Park on KCAL9 network television news

Watch the story of Lost Photos Buena Park as reported by Rachel Kim here on CBS Los Angeles website:


Mar 18

PUPPY LOVE! Do you think this is the same person?

Girl Woman Puppies

What do you think? Is the school portrait and the puppy hugging woman the same person? There’s no dates on either photo but we are guessing late 70’s and late 90’s based on the photo paper and style. The only problem with that theory is that we estimate the girl to be about 12 years old, but the woman to be mid-40s. If we base the aging on the estimates of the photos age, that girl would be about 30 in the second photo.  What are your thoughts?

March 20, 2015 Update:  These two are Aunt and Niece to each other.  One is the mother of Tonya, to whom the photos were united, and the other is her cousin.





Mar 16

Geocaching and an Unexpected Treasure

geocaching lost photos


In reflecting back to the day we found these family photos, it was a birthday weekend partially spent geocaching. Geocaching is a hobby of ours. It is like a treasure hunt game so it is really interesting that we found this unexpected treasure of photos while seeking an actual hide. Check out this video to learn more:



We had parked just to the south of Ground Zero (GZ), the point at which your GPS says you are within feet of the hidden container, aka cache.  Clinging to the inside of a guard rail along the sidewalk was the cache. It was a small magnetic tin box. (See Google Street View for said guard rail: link)  It was an easy find, commonly referred to as quick grab. Much better than our most recent amd more frustrating search that ended as a DNF (Did Not Find) in a park near by. But that’s how it goes with geocaching.

Related Post: Feb. 22, 2015 Someone lost their family photos!

There are literally millions of caches hidden around the world, so geocaching can be done anywhere. We’ve searched for geocaches on all our vacations and as a nice way to get out when just hanging out at home. In most cases, we discover something new or unique: whether it’s a great little park, a spot with an amazing view, somewhere with a cultural or historical significance, someone’s favorite restaurant, or just a creative hide. It’s always fun and educational. Most geocaches come with a story explaining the significance of its location. There are great little corners of so many cities that we would have never discovered from any guidebook. We’ve even gone geocaching as a way to wait out a traffic jam and to break up long drives. In any populated area, there can be a handful of caches within a quarter mile of wherever you are. Try searching where you are here: /

On this day of geocaching, though, we found a treasure of photos. Maybe these photos were calling to be rescued so an invisible force drew us to take our treasure hunt up Beach Boulevard. The photos must have been disparate for help given the impending storm. They had already been trampled on, run over, and blown over a half mile stretch of Route 39. The rain came in just a few hours after we saved the photos from the street: Here’s the CBS Los Angeles news story on that much needed rain: Wet Weather Challenges Southland Drivers, Homeowners February 22, 2015 9:06 PM.

Do you have any interesting geocaching stories? Share them in the comments below!


You might like: Not All Wander Lost Geocaching T-Shirt

The Geocaching Logo is a registered trademark of Groundspeak, Inc. Used with permission.

Mar 12

March 12 Update – Earl Warren Elementary in Garden Grove?


This week we were able to send out a number of messages and letters to some people that might be some of the subjects of the photos. There’s a boy (or may be an adult now) who attended “[Illegible] Warren Elementary School”. It might be Earl Warren Elementary in Garden Grove. Since he may be a minor, we won’t disclose too much, but there is a good chance that the school may be able to identify him. We only have his first name but at least it is a unique name and spelling. The photo isn’t dated but based on the envelope, the boy was in elementary school after laser printers were in use. (Who remembers those ditto machines?)

Stay posted as it looks like we’ll be able to get some TV or newspaper help in soon!

Mar 06

Clue: Photos from Carie Henbest and Michael Paredes to Aunt Crystal and Uncle Danny

Two of the photos addressed to Aunt Crystal from a boy and a girl. The niece is “Carie Age 7, 1977″. There’s a 1988 photo of a Carie Henbest that has the same smile as the aged 7 Carie.

The nephew, Michael Paredes, was born in the first week of January in 1981. He should be 34 years old today. This one is written to Aunt Crystal and an Uncle Danny. There are so many Michael Paredes in Facebook and Linked In. Does anyone know how to filter a search on the social networks by age to find a Michael Paredes age 34?

Does anyone know a Carie Henbest that is about 45 years old today? A quick search on Facebook and the web yielded no good results.

Side note, the photo with Carie (and two guys named Casey and Pat) is one of our favorites also. It’s a dynamic photos and embodies youth, friendship, and the 80’s perfectly.



Carie Henbest, Casey, and Pat 1988 – Click for larger image


Carie Age 7 – 1977 – Click for larger image


Michael Shawn Paredes 7 weeks old, Febrary 21, 1981 – Click for larger image


Mar 02

Looking for Clues to Find the Owner of the Photos


An interesting note since the first post is the close call regarding these photos. A huge downpour of rain started only a couple hours after picking them all up from the street. If we find the owner, it will be very gratifying to have rescued them from the rain.

We went through the photos.   There is about 150 of them. The lot comprises of mostly shots of people, both posed and events like birthdays (and even a funeral). There are only about five shots of things like landscapes, pets, or objects. Most of the photos are from the 1980’s. There’s a number from the 70s and a few post-millennium.

The main image on this blog post features some of our favorites, mostly because it’s fun to see old photos. The stuffed  animals picture is labeled “my teddys” in an elementary school style cursive on the back. So cute. Recommendation: The most powerful and easy to use camera on the market today: Sony DSC-RX100M III Cyber-shot Digital Still Camera

There are only about 20 photos with any names on the back.  If we can find some of these people, they might clue us in on who took or owns the pictures.

We did find two personal effects belonging to people named Oskar and Tonya. If we can find one of them, there’s a good chance they are the owners or know who are.

We’ve left messages with a few people on Facebook that seem to match some of the clues. We also posted on the community forums,, and newspapers for Buena Park and Garden grove.   Stay tuned for any updates.

Books you might like:

 The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro

 Digital Photography For Dummies

Feb 22

Someone lost their family photos!

We were out geocaching as a nice, leisurely, “birthday weekend” activity.  After finding the rusty tin hidden behind a guardrail, we saw someone’s school photo blow by.  Then there was another photo. Then another. And as we walked back to the car, we saw at least a dozen more.

We picked a few of them up, and it was clear someone had lost their photos of family and friends.   There was a variety of photos with typical labels like, “Grandpa’s Birthday,”  “5th Grade photo,” and lots of posing with 70s, 80s, and 90s hairstyles.

A woman approaching with her baby in a stroller started picking them after seeing us chase photos in the wind. We clarified that the photos weren’t ours, but that we thought it would be nice if we could find the owner. It seems sad to lose memories like that.  Eventually we found around 150 photos strewn over a city block. Family Tree Maker, Platinum #1-Selling Family History Software

This will be fun, and hopefully rewarding, detective work.  There are a number of clues from the handwritten notes on the backs of the photos and from the grade school pictures. Seeing that a lot of the photos are based in Orange County, maybe by posting and sharing a the photos and clues, you will recognize yourself or someone else.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress.  Share this blog and we are sure we’ll find the owners soon. If you are on Twitter, please follow us here:


Books you might like:
humansnyHumans of New York

hxphotosorangeco     Historic Photos of Orange County



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