A Michigan family’s treasure hid in the walls of Maxwell Mousseau’s bathroom.
For four years, he hadn’t a clue.
As the 19-year-old cleaned up drywall while remodeling a bathroom in his Lake Orion, Michigan, home, he almost threw it out. Instead, he held onto the small green wallet, which would take him on an odyssey and bring a huge family even closer together.
Melva and Albert Campbell lived in Michigan for a good part of their lives, until sometime in the mid-1990s when they moved to Bradenton to retire. Albert passed away in 2001 at age 85 and Melva passed away 11 years later. Melva and Albert were laid to rest side by side in a mausoleum crypt at the Mansion Memorial Park in Ellenton.
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The wallet belonged to Melva, as it had her social security card, birth certificate and General Motors identity card inside. When she was 25, she began working at the GMC Truck & Coach Division in Pontiac, Michigan, on April 2, 1946.
“They were a very nice aunt and uncle,” said one of Albert’s nieces, Jean Thompson, in a recent phone interview. “He was in the service. Everyone was proud Americans.”
Her husband, Albert, also worked at GM, according to family. She had a photo of herself and her husband in her wallet as well — he wore his World War II military uniform, while she wore a ruffled outfit and coiffed her hair with waves.
Mousseau found a few very personal mementos as well.
“Melva had these pictures of her husband in her wallet of his butt and of him just standing there next to military vehicles (from World War II),” Mousseau said in a recent phone interview.
The 19-year-old wanted to find out more about the couple and return the wallet to the couple or their family members. So, like any 21st century sleuth, he took to Facebook.
Two photos, three hours and hundreds of Facebook shares later, Mousseau got a phone number for one of Albert’s 10 siblings, Allen.
But, Allen and his wife Gladys thought Mousseau was a scammer.
“At first they were sketched out, so they called the police on me,” Mousseau said.
When all was explained, they met at a Culver’s restaurant. A friend came along with Mousseau to document the meeting.
“We sat down for three hours and talked, and talked, and talked,” Mousseau said.
They talked about Albert and Melva. They talked about family. They talked about keeping in touch.
Allen and Gladys sent Mousseau a letter after their meeting. The 19-year-old said the meeting was “a really good experience.”
“You’re such a great young man who cares about family,” the letter read. “That’s how we know you’ll go far in life.”
Many of Albert’s family saw the Facebook post as well, including his great-niece Melissa Thompson.
Her reaction: “Oh my gosh!”
She said she was taking a break from doing schoolwork when she recognized her great-uncle from a strong family resemblance. She tagged her mom, Jean, in the post.
Every year since the ‘60s, the family has gathered for a reunion in Yale, Michigan. Melissa Thompson came up with a plan to make this year’s extra special.
“Because of this wallet and this picture, we’re asking all of our family members ... to bring a family picture so we can do an actual ... photo family tree,” Melissa Thompson said.
And after all this time, a piece of Melva and Albert will be with their family.
“I’m just amazed that this wallet was in a wall,” Jean Thompson said.