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San Jose Mercury News Scott Herhold column
[February 25, 2013]

San Jose Mercury News Scott Herhold column

Feb 25, 2013 (San Jose Mercury News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- It was just a little pink wallet, scarcely large enough to hold a few debit cards and a driver's license. Janessa Rhodes carried it in a larger purse to make her life simpler.

Rhodes tends to go full-tilt -- she describes herself as a "bull in a china shop." On the day she lost the little wallet, she was headed to her work at Bascom Avenue and San Carlos Street.

It isn't the best of neighborhoods. The "Business Circle" near that intersection has decayed like a molar that hasn't seen a dentist for 40 years. Rhodes counted her blessings that the little pink wallet contained no cash.

"I attributed it to my lack of organization and living my life by the fast-forward button," she told me. Laboriously, she began replacing her cards. She dreaded visiting the DMV.

As it turned out, a man had found the wallet near the Time Deli and had taken it home to his wife, Gerry, a kind woman. Their street, Bradley Avenue, is named for the famous World War II general, Omar Bradley, a kind man.

Gerry -- she prefers that her last name not be used -- couldn't find a phone number in the wallet. So she wrote a letter to the address on Rhodes' driver's license.

Alas, snail mail doesn't jar everyone. "Since I'm besieged by medical bills, my mail box is a place I avoid at all costs," Rhodes said. The letter landed in a stack of unopened mail.

Gerry did not give up. "I waited, thinking maybe she had moved and they had to forward the letter," she said. "Then, when she didn't call, I called the bank." The bank helps The bank -- Citibank, to be precise -- was skeptical at first about finding the owner of the little pink wallet that contained its debit card. "I really had to talk them into it," Gerry said.

Finally, someone at the bank called Rhodes. The banking official passed on Gerry's phone number, saying the wallet had been found.

Rhodes called -- and within a few hours, she drove by Gerry's house to pick up the little pink wallet. "She saved me from going to the DMV," Rhodes said.

"When the human spirit is this kind, it makes you so happy," she said, explaining why she wanted the story out.

Gerry was far more modest about her role. "I think anybody would do the same," she told me.

Fighting uphill Sadly, I have to disagree. More than a few folks would be down on San Carlos Street trying to pass off the card as their own. A letter unanswered No phone number available A skeptical bank Many of the honest would long since have junked the wallet. Even good Samaritans are busy.

We're used to reading about ugly crimes in San Jose. We shrug at the rising burglary rate. In such a heartless world, a little pink wallet doesn't count for much.

As it happened, there was more than just the debit cards and the license in the wallet. There was a bit of emotional freight, too.

Rhodes' grandson had given her a charm bracelet not long ago. To open one of the little circular charms, she had a tiny screwdriver stuck in a fold of the wallet.

Having it back meant that she could open the charm once again. She didn't have to explain the loss to her grandson.

"It's amazing how much emotional weight there can be in a little trinket," she said.

Or, for that matter, in the story of a wallet lost and found.

Contact Scott Herhold at 408-275-0917 or Follow him at

___ (c)2013 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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