Trunk completes round trip 30 years later

Staff writer

Mary Steadman always wanted a piece of her father’s military history but never thought she would get it. So, when her aunt, Patty Finley, found a footlocker that once belonged to him at an antique store in Park City, she jumped at the chance to bring it home.

“She took a picture and texted it to us,” Steadman said. “It was along the lines of, ‘look what I found.”’

Steadman’s father, Hillsboro native Gene Kelsey, went to see whether it was the same trunk he had given away more than 30 years before.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see it again,” Kelsey said, “but it was the same one. So I just said, ‘Yep, that’s it,’ and left the store.”

Kelsey had no interest in it, but Steadman had other feelings.

“As he was driving back home, he called to say he went to see it,” Steadman said. “I told him he needed to turn around and buy it. ‘I don’t want to,’ he said, but I told him I wanted it, so he turned around.”

Not only did Steadman’s father serve in Vietnam, her husband is currently active in the Air National Guard.

“I’m just glad to have it back, especially for my kids, so they can know their grandpa and how he served our country,” she said. “I have three kids, and it’s just a piece of my dad. It’s part of his life.”

While she’s not sure what to do with the trunk, Steadman wants to keep it exactly as it was found. It is one of her only links to her father’s military career.

“I can’t remember him talking much about his service,” she said. “We saw once or twice in our entire lives some pictures he had stored.”

Kelsey’s trunk mostly held gear while he was in training with the 101st Airborne and didn’t see duty with him in Vietnam. The blue trunk with Kelsey’s name and serial number painted on the top were used.

“I joined the guard in the ’60s and painted it blue shortly after and that’s the way it stayed, even after all these years,” Kelsey said. “It sat around most of the time.”

After getting married, Kelsey thought it was time to part with the military part of his life for closure. Kelsey doesn’t remember to who or where he donated the trunk and its contents, but he never expected to see it again.

“I have no interest in having it back, but Mary wanted it, so she can deal with it now,” he said.

 

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