Decades-old family memories found in home, woman seeks to find owners

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Knoxville woman is looking to return some family memories, some dating back to World War II.

Gina Ruth, who lives on Avenue A was cleaning her downstairs apartment one day when a box of photos, letters, marriage certificates and more fell from a shelf in a closet. Ruth had been living in her Avenue A home for about 8 months when she found this box of family memories hidden in a mother-in-law suite apartment closet adjacent to her home.

“Thursday, December third, 1942, says ‘Dear Lester, at last, I will try to answer your letters,’” reads Ruth. “It’s all addressed to a ‘Rhoda Spragg.’”

Ruth first asked the former tenant if he knew about the box of memories, he said he’d never seen it. 

So, she tried looking on the internet next.

“I had no luck on, I even looked on Ancestry.com,” Ruth said. 

The contents of the box include pictures, letters, dairy grocery lists, a list of family births, as well as marriages and deaths. 

All the pages yellowed, some things dating back to the 1880s, others during World War II. 

“I wish this war would end so I can be with my family,” reads one letter. 

Most of the memorabilia connecting to Colorado, names like Oliver, Miller, and Spragg throughout. 

Ruth has looked inside the box many times, now, trying to connect the memories to the rightful owners or family, and also laughing at how cheap things were back then.

“Three dollars and twenty cents for property taxes 1938. Hahaha.”

Ruth says she wants the family to be able to look back into their history, saying if it were her, “I would want them to find me and give it to me so I can share it with my family and my kids.” 

So, her mystery memory box mission is continuing. 

Ruth spoke with WKRN’s sister station, WATE 6 On Your Side, about her love of history and says if she can’t find the family, she will give the box to a history museum.

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