Used nightstand purchased at local shop contained treasure trove of keepsakes

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 3:03 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Waco woman whose husband discovered a treasure trove of keepsakes wedged in the back of a used nightstand she bought at a local shop including an old vacation Bible school booklet, letters, and even a handmade bookmark, was able to track down the family of the woman to whom the items once belonged.

Autumn Outlaw bought two bedside tables from Junque Queen’s shop on Austin Avenue about five years ago, but the papers hidden in the back of one of them weren’t discovered until her husband pulled the drawer out to find something else.

“He told me, ‘Oh these papers were wedged back behind the drawer’ and he said ‘I don’t know what they are,’” Autumn said.

Autumn began to look through the forgotten pieces of paper and couldn’t believe her eyes.

There was a handmade bookmark, a vacation Bible school booklet from 1967, old note cards with handwriting on them along with other papers with information about a man named Herman D. Thomas and his wife Frances Marie Thomas.

Autumn did a quick Google search and discovered the obituaries of the well-known Waco couple and while she was sad to read that Mr. Thomas passed away in 2005 and his wife in 2013, the surviving family members listed gave her another avenue to try.

“I had a hard time finding their children, but their grandsons had unusual last names and I went to Facebook and searched and found two grandsons, one I had a few friends in common with, and so I reached out and sent on a message on Dec. 30 and on Jan. 9 got a message back from one of the grandsons,” Autumn said.

The grandson put Autumn in touch with Waco resident Laura Thomas, the daughter of the nightstand’s original owners.

“I think I would say there was some excitement in ‘what in the world has she found?” Laura told KWTX.

“Mom was forever just stuffing stuff into that drawer.”

Autumn and Laura met up in the Target parking lot where Autumn passed over the what she’d found.

It was the way in which it was packaged that moved Laura from the get-go.

“Mom had this thing about Ziploc bags so anytime she had to organize paperwork it was in Ziploc bags,” Laura said.

“It was all I could do not to cry because it was so my mom. It was all in a Ziploc bag.”

“After looking at a handmade bookmark, she said, ‘Oh, that’s my mother’s handwriting,’” Autumn said.

“I’m so glad I was able to get the items back to her after nearly 54 years.”

Laura said she loved seeing her old vacation bible school booklet from when she was 6-years-old.

“I mean how many moms would have kept this little books of the bible booklet just tucked away somewhere?”

She enjoyed looking through all the church related papers she found and the notes her mom had on them as a VBS teacher.

“I immediately knew it was her handwriting because she was so precise with her handwriting,” Laura said.

Laura also loved seeing the note cards her dad had written, which appeared to have been used to introduce him at an event.

Mr. Thomas was a military man with a long history in education, working as a history teacher at West Junior High School in Waco as well as Richfield High School where he helped open the planetarium, using his experience in the air force as a navigator.

He was also the vice principal at Richfield High school and principal at Tennyson Junior High School.

He worked at Baylor in the admission’s office until 1993.

Autumn says she’s always loved ‘old things’ and loves that her old refurbished furniture turned up something so great.

“I love old things and I love the stories they tell even when they can’t tell you but that nightstand was able to tell me a lot,” Autumn said.

And Laura is glad it did.

“Just very comforting even after all these years mom is still mom,” Laura said.

“She lets us know she loves us.”

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