This Woman Was Searching Through A Thrift Store When She Came Upon A Decades-Old Treasure Trove

Sara Redlich was hunting through containers at a thrift store, keen to get her hands on a bargain. However, what she didn’t expect to find was a treasure trove from the 1970s. The discovery was so special she immediately knew she had to find the items’ owner.

In 2009, Redlich lived in Aloha, Oregon. Around this time, she chose to take a trip to nearby Hillsboro. Once there, she passed some time rummaging through the receptacles at one of the city’s Goodwill charity stores.

As Redlich browsed through other people’s unwanted possessions, she noticed something that stopped her in her tracks. The bundle of items were so personal, that she believed they had no place in a secondhand store. So, she gathered them up and showed them to a member of staff.

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Redlich was eager for the collection to be returned to its rightful owner. However, when she showed the items to an employee, they didn’t appear to share her concerns. As a result, she resolved to take matters into her own hands.

Recalling her unique discovery, in 2015 Redlich told daily Washington State newspaper The Columbian, “I grabbed them all. I thought, ‘I need to find the rightful owner. If nobody else is going to do anything about it, I am.’”

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However, despite her good intentions, when Redlich returned home she put the items in a box then forgot about them. She later relocated to California, before settling in Salmon Creek, Washington, in 2012. After three years, Redlich decided it was time to move once again, this time to the other side of town.

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Redlich had been packing up for her latest move when she came across the artefacts from Goodwill once more. And this time, she vowed to get the items home. As a result, she took to her social media pages.

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Redlich used the “Vancouver Area Free Market” Facebook group to get the word out, and in less than one day she’d found the keepsakes’ owner. Her name was Rose Hill and she lived in Hillsboro – the Oregon town where Redlich had originally found the items.

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Hill first became aware of the search for her after her son woke her up. Over the phone, he told her, “Mom, you’re all over social media.” Later Hill revealed to The Columbian that she’d found being the focus of so much online attention “really surreal.”

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Once she’d found the person she was looking for, Redlich arranged to return the goods in January 2015. To make the moment even more special, she had wrapped the items up to give Hill an element of surprise.

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When Hill unwrapped the bundle, she found a pile of letters addressed to herself. The envelopes dated from as far back the 1970s, and had been sent by Hill’s then-husband Joe Hill. At the time, Joe had been serving in the Vietnam War.

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While Hill and Joe divorced some time around 2013, their relationship had enjoyed sweet beginnings. The couple had first met as children, picking strawberries on an Oregon farm. They became firm friends. So when Joe returned home from Vietnam over Christmas 1972, Hill agreed to lend him her car.

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All Hill asked in return was for Joe to ferry her to and from work. He agreed, and on one of these otherwise mundane journeys the pair shared their first kiss. From there things developed quickly, and the couple soon eloped to Reno, Nevada, just days before Joe had to fly back to resume his military duties.

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The letters Redlich had returned to Hill were from the first months of her marriage. And as Hill opened them a full gamut of emotions washed over her. Her eyes filled up with tears, while a smile simultaneously broke out across her face.

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In one note from 1973, Joe had gushed, “I love you Rose! That may sound like an ending rather than a beginning, but let me assure you, it’s only the start of the beginning. Only the start of my feelings for you. Love is the only word capable of coming close to the description of my feelings for you.”

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Joe added, “As inadequate as words seem, I am forced to use them for now. The time will come, though, when I can show you just how much you mean to me. When that day comes, I will be the happiest man alive.”

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Although she and Joe had since split, the love letters’ had gained in significance for Hill, rather than waned. Unknown to Redlich, the divorcee had been experiencing memory loss for around a year before being reunited with the letters. “It seems like a lot of my life is gone and I can’t find it,” Hill explained to TV station CBS News in 2015.

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Doctors were yet to determine the cause of Hill’s memory loss, a mystery that had been driving her to despair. “I was rooting for them to find brain lesions or a brain tumor,” she told CBS. “I wanted to know what was causing this, because if you know what’s causing it maybe you can fix it – or make it better – or make it not hurt so bad.”

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But thanks to Redlich, Hill had suddenly been handed a part of her past back. And while most of the letters simply chronicled everyday life, they still proved invaluable. “I remember!” Hill rejoices in the CBS footage. “You smell the smells. You hear the sounds. You feel like you are back in time and place.”

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As a result, Hill will be forever grateful to Redlich for returning her old love letters. In fact, the pair plan to keep in touch. “She rescued them and she’s kept them for five, six years,” Hill told Oregon TV news station KPTV in 2015. “Yeah, she’s amazing.”

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