Kevin Duke was a proud father of a newly-licensed 16-year-old. To celebrate the occasion, he wanted to give his daughter her very first car and made sure that it was in perfect condition for her to be safe on the road. While cleaning it out, Duke made a discovery that stopped him dead in his tracks. What Duke found revealed that the wheels he just bought for his daughter were more than just a car…
A Typical Sweet Sixteen Present
When a kid turns 16 years old, they are finally able to get their driver’s license. As a result, many lucky kids often receive a car for their 16th birthday. Jada Duke was one of those kids.
Her father Kevin bought a used car a few weeks ahead of her birthday, checking if it ran properly and fixing it up before he gave it to her. That’s when he encountered something unexpected.
The Perfect Starter Car
In January 2015, Kevin Duke began searching for a car for his daughter Jada, who would be turning 16 the following March. After he mentioned it, a customer at his construction job told him about a car that was for sale.
“She told me that she had seen a car that would be a perfect starter car for my daughter,” he told CNHI News. The car in question was a used silver Ford Fusion.
It Needed A Little Maintenance
“The brakes squeaked a little bit, but it was a good car,” Duke said after taking it for a test drive. A few days later, he bought the car and took it home for some maintenance to make sure the car was safe for his daughter.
He’d gone through every nook and cranny of the car at least five times but still felt the need to check again.
Something He Overlooked
Kevin Duke opened the top-dash compartment for the sixth time. He recalled, “This time I noticed that the cover on the bottom was removable. I thought it might be dirty so I popped the cover loose; and when I did I saw the corner of the envelope.”
Curious, Duke sat in the car and opened the envelope. “I sat right there and read it, and bawled like a baby,” he recalled.
Important Information For The New Owner
The envelope was addressed to “New Car Owner” and also noted “Important Info Inside.” Duke likely thought that it might detail any maintenance concerns he should have about the car but once he read the envelope’s contents, he was immediately flabbergasted.
The envelope contained a hand-written letter that turned out to reveal the car’s colored past. As Duke poured over the letter, he could not believe what he was reading.
A Car With A Lot Of Special Memories
“This car holds a lot of special memories for me. My home and everything in it is gone, this car is all that I had left to touch,” the letter read. When it comes to used vehicles, most people are often only concerned with how much longer it will last under their ownership.
But as Duke continued to read the letter, he got a real glimpse into the life that his daughter’s car had before he bought it.
They Took The Car On Many Adventures
“My family filled this car with lots of love and other sticky things. We took two road trips, blasted ’80s and country music and rolled the windows down. I’ve changed more diapers in the backseat than I can count. There’s probably a sucker stick or a crayon hidden somewhere that belonged to my baby,” the letter stated.
In reading the letter, Kevin Duke also came to learn why the car was no longer with this person who obviously loved it so much.
The Car Came With A Few Kinks
Indeed, the person who wrote the letter did take a moment to mention some kinks that came with the car. “The dent on the rear drivers side fender and the dent in the passenger side door are where my daughter learned to ride… and crash… her bike,” the letter read.
It’s plausible that Duke thought back to when he taught his own daughter how to ride a bike and didn’t mind so much about the dents on her first car.
Her Name Was Sylvia
The car also had a name: Sylvia. “The very first day Mom got this car, we all rode around and Dr. Hook’s ‘Sylvia’s Mother’ came on the radio. The name kind of just stuck when… my daughter said that’s what we should name the car. So please don’t change her name,” the letter said.
As he kept reading, Duke would learn more about Sylvia and the memories she made with this unknown family.
The Tragedy That Took The Owner’s Life
“I just wanted to let you know what a special vehicle you’ve bought. This car belonged to my mom. She passed away Feb. 25, 2015 in a house fire along with my 6 year old daughter and my aunt. The last time my mom drove this car was the day she left us,” the letter read.
Kevin was floored to learn that the car was connected to such a tragedy. He wondered why the car was given up if it had so much meaning.
The Woman Who Wrote The Letter
The letter was written by a woman named Sabrina Archey. Archey was at work when her family home burst into flames and took her mom, daughter, and aunt along with it. Not only did Archey have to deal with the grief of losing some of the most important people of her life but she also was faced with the repercussions of the tragedy.
Suddenly homeless, Archey also still had to care for her other surviving daughter, who was not at home during the fire.
The Car Was All She Had Left Of Her Mom And Daughter
After the fire, all Archey had left was her mother’s car and a backpack her late daughter had left inside of it. Despite what had happened, the car was still repossessed.
“There was a mix up with paperwork and that’s caused the car to not be paid off by insurance. It’s very upsetting that I have lost my family, my home and now I’m losing this last link I have with my mom and child through no fault of my own,” Archey wrote.
She Couldn’t Prevent It From Getting Repossessed
Despite a supportive community that came together to help her with funeral costs, Archey was still left with a whole plethora of financial burdens to take care of on her own. Even though the company that financed the car tried to help Archey as best they could, in the end they had to take it off her hands.
Before the car was picked up, Archey went through the car one last time to find anything that was left behind.
The Moment She Had To Write The Letter
While searching the car one last time, Archey noticed a faint imprint of a child-sized shoe on the dashboard where her late daughter used to sit. The moment she saw it, a flood of memories and tears suddenly came pouring out.
That was when Archey was moved to write the letter to whomever would turn out to be the new owner of her mother’s Ford Fusion. Little did she know, the car wouldn’t be going that far.
She Wasn’t Bitter About Letting Go
Despite having to give up her mother’s car against her will, Archey expressed no hard feelings towards its new owner. In her letter, she clarified, “I’m not mad at you. I hope this car is the best car you’ve ever owned. I hope it runs for 100 more years. I hope the back seat is filled with kids and toys and random things.”
At the end of her letter, Archey did make a plea.
She Had One Plea For The New Owner
She continued, “Life happened in this car. Love, joy, and adventure was had in this car. So now that it’s yours, please remember it isn’t just a car. It’s a memory. This car with all its quirks is the last piece of my family. Be nice to it.”
For Archey, her family’s memory lived on in that car that was so hard to let go. But soon, things would come full circle.
She Wanted Them To Enjoy It As Much As Her Family Did
Archey was surely heartbroken to let the car go but she sincerely hoped its new owner would enjoy it the same way her family did. She even made this special suggestion: “Play it a country song, Big Green Tractor was my daughter’s favorite song ever, or some Lynyrd Skynrd Freebird. That song meant so much to us that I played it at their funerals.”
She really wanted to let the car’s new owner know just how important it was.
She Wanted The Car Back
Archey knew that Sylvia might not even stay with her new owner for long. In the letter, she added, “If you ever want to sell Sylvia, please try to find me. I just paid for 3 funerals, I can’t afford to buy it right now, but hopefully I’ll be in a better financial situation if you decide later that she’s just not right for you anymore.”
Reading that bit, Duke felt torn over the car he had just bought his daughter.
Duke Reached Out To Archey After Reading The Letter
Archey was from Greenup, Kentucky and Kevin Duke lived only 15 minutes away in Flatwoods. After reading the letter, Duke was so filled with emotion that he knew he had to find Archey to let her know her mother’s Ford was now in good hands.
Luckily, finding Archey wasn’t too difficult. Because of how moved he was, Duke asked her permission to share her letter on Facebook. That’s when things really took a turn.
The Letter Went Viral Online
After Duke shared the heartbreaking letter on Facebook it quickly went viral, especially after it was shared by the page Love What Matters where it accumulated 19,000 reactions from people as far as Australia.
Many people sympathized with Sabrina Archey’s story and believed that Duke should return the car to her. That’s when one citizen came across the story and decided to take matters into their own hands. Simply sharing the story wasn’t enough for them.
Tammi Warrington Had To Do Something
More than 800 miles away in Kansas, Tammi Warrington was utterly moved by Archey’s letter. When she read the letter, she was reportedly struck by how Archey wasn’t bitter about giving up the car. “It devastated me on her behalf,” Warrington told CJ Online.
Warrington remembered when her own father passed away and how she would feel if her 5-year-old son was gone too. She remembered thinking that Archey needed to have her car back.
She Reached Out To The Original Poster
When she initially read the letter, Warrington didn’t know who had originally written it. All she had to go off of was the person who shared it, which was Kevin Duke. Warrington decided to reach out to Duke to see what she could do to help him and help return the Ford Fusion to its previous owner.
She was surprised to find out that Duke had already been in touch with Archey.
She Helped Raise Money To Give The Car Back
Warrington worked with Duke to figure out how much it would cost to replace Duke’s daughter’s car so that they could return the Ford Fusion to Archey without her having to buy it back.
Altogether, they determined they would need to raise $12,000 to pay taxes to give the car back to Archey, take care of credit card processing fees, and to be able to replace the car that Duke intended to give to his daughter.
They Raised Enough Money And Appeared On TV
An online fundraising campaign was set up to raise money. At first, they only managed to raise a few hundred dollars until one day, it suddenly had $3,500. Warrington checked her email to see a barrage of messages. Apparently, an Australian television ran a story about the campaign.
Finally, TLC contacted Warrington to highlight Archey’s new friendship with the Duke’s on This Is Life Live. Kevin Duke only agreed to appear on TV if he got to personally return the keys to Archey.
They Were Able To Return The Car
For his part, Duke merely meant to share what he thought was an interesting story. “I didn’t want to make any money from it. If I could have afforded to replace the car, then I would have just given in to her,” he told CNHI News.
Eventually, Sylvia was returned to Archey, who felt so good to be able to feel where her mom used to hold the steering wheel. Kevin Duke was also still able to give his daughter a car. Fittingly, she named it Sylvia 2.
He Bought A Used Dresser For $100 And Found A Hidden Treasure Inside
People who enjoy shopping at thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales all have one thing in common: they know the thrill of finding the “perfect” item. It can feel like spotting a diamond in the rough! A man named Emil Knodell who went to an estate sale in Missouri City, Texas, found such an item.
It was already a steal, but when he bought it he had no idea that it contained a valuable secret. You could say he hit the jackpot twice with his furniture purchase that fateful day.
Estate Sales Can Be A Goldmine For Those In The Know
An estate sale usually happens after someone passes away. Many times, their family will sell off the belongings that they don’t want to claim for themselves. In some of these cases, the family isn’t aware of how valuable their loved one’s possessions are, and they’re also trying to get rid of things as quickly as possible. This means that you can find some pretty good deals if you have the time to weed through everything.
That’s the precise reason that Emil Knodell, a 67-year-old retired marketing director, ended up at an estate sale in Missouri City, Texas, one day. He was well aware of the possibility of finding bargains.
Knodell Approached The Estate Sale With An Open Mind
This particular sale was run by a company called Premier Estates Sales Network. The firm is run by people who specialize in valuing and pricing items, so the chance that Knodell would score something truly rare or valuable.
But he remained hopeful and optimistic about his prospects. “I always come to a sale with an open mind because you never know,” he said in an interview. His willingness to sort through an entire lot of items was about to pay off, big time.
He Spotted A Dresser That He Liked
After looking through many, many items, Knodell’s attention was grabbed by a dresser. It was nothing flashy, just a wooden chest with thee drawers and a marble top. But it was said to date all the way back to 1890, making it a real antique.
The dresser was initially priced at $300 but had been marked down by the time Knodell made it to the sale. It was less than $100 when he happened across it. Quite a bargain, but the low purchase price was just the start of Knodell’s luck.
Moving The Dresser Took The Strength Of Two Men
Even though this sale was organized by a professional estate sale company, the people involved were not aware of the dresser’s real value. A staff member for Premiere Estate Sales Network, Jeff Allen, was asked by Knodell for help loading the dresser into his truck.
Allen agreed and the two men began moving the large dresser outside and into the waiting vehicle. That’s when they both noticed something unusual about the antique piece of furniture.
Unexplained Noises Intrigued Both Men
Jeff Allen, the estate sale employee, remembered the day well. “He asked for help loading it,” Allen explained in an interview. It’s what happened after the move that was really strange.
“As soon as we laid it down, it started making all this racket on the inside,” said Allen. “Obviously we were very intrigued with what was happening with the dresser.” Who wouldn’t be? After all, furniture doesn’t usually make unexpected noises. What was causing the dresser to make a “racket”?
As any curious person would do, Allen and Knodell decided to investigate the source of the strange noise they had heard coming from the old dresser.
In order to really get a good look at the heavy piece of furniture, they turned it over and laid it down on its back. That was exactly the view they needed, and what they saw revealed after they’d turned the dresser over shocked both of them.
One Secret, Revealed
The dresser appeared ordinary enough other than the fact that it was clearly old. But as with many things, there was more than meets the eye with this mysterious piece of furniture that only cost $100 bucks.
“When you look at the front of it, it looks like it has three obvious drawers with molding on the base,” explained Knodell. “But the bottom has a secret drawer that opens up.” Woah, this is news! What did the secret door contain?
How Did Everyone Miss The Secret Drawer?
By now the dresser had been seen by the family of whoever owned it before the passed away. And it had also been appraised by the professionals of Premiere Estate Sales Network. It’s pretty hard to understand how everyone involved had missed this surprising part of the dresser!
Finding the secret drawer was just the tip of the iceberg. Knodell and Allen were about to open the compartment and learn exactly what was hidden inside.
The Secret Compartment Was Well-Hidden
Whoever designed this dresser wanted their valuables to remain safely hidden. This is clearly evident in how carefully the secret compartment was hidden from view. If Knodell and Allen hadn’t heard strange noises coming from the antique, the extra drawer might have stayed hidden forever.
At this point, Knodell was probably just excited that he got a four-drawer dresser for the price of a three-door! Little did he know but he was about to find out he got a much bigger bargain than he ever could have guessed.
And The Drawer Is Finally Opened…
Knodell later spoke about opening the dresser drawer. “It was a real adrenaline rush,” he said, adding that both he and Allen “were in shock for a second.” That’s pretty easy to understand, as finding something as crazy as a secret door in an otherwise normal, everyday dresser isn’t something that happens too often.
Knodell’s good luck in buying the dresser became really clear as the two men got a glimpse of the fourth drawer’s contents.
Wow, Actual Treasure!
So just what was in this almost-magical dresser drawer? We finally find out: it was full of some serious treasure, in the form of jewels, money, and old personal mementos! Allen and Knodell had found a slice of history in that dresser. Paper currency from around the world, Civil War military medals, dog tags, and even a nicely-preserved lock of hair were hiding in the drawer.
There was even more, though: valuable jewelry like rings and bracelets, and loose gems including emeralds and diamonds. Who would ever have guessed that all this stuff would be in a wooden dresser marked down to $100?
Putting A Date On The Treasure
It was quickly becoming clear that the estimate of 1890 on Knodell’s new purchase was probably pretty accurate. And if that was legitimately the case, there would probably be plenty of collectors who would like to get their hands on the historic treasure inside it.
Collectors who would probably be willing to pay a pretty penny to own the hidden relics. It was time to request a professional’s opinion in order to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Jeff Allen Weighs In On The Find
Luckily for Knodell, his new friend Jeff Allen was one of the professionals working for Premiere Estate Sales Network. He gave the newly-discovered treasure a closer look to determine the worth of both the dresser and all the loot it contained.
Allen’s professional opinion was that the dresser and its contents were worth a combined $15,000! All this for the mere $100 that Knodell had initially spent on it. This means that he got 150 times his money’s worth on his purchase.
A Problem Arises
As with many “too good to be true” stories, this one also ended up having a twist. Here’s the problem: none of the items in the treasure lode were technically included in the sale since no one knew that they were even there.
Knodell bought the dresser fair and square so he was the legal owner of all the things he found inside. Some people might just think “hey, I’m $15,000 richer!” and be done with it. But Jeff wasn’t sure if keeping the items was really the right thing to do.
An Ethical Dilemma
Could Emil Knodell bring himself to have a “finders, keepers” attitude about the things he found in the dresser he’d just snagged for only $100? As we said earlier, some people would not hesitate to sell the treasure and pocket the profit.
But Knodell just didn’t feel too comfortable with that course of action. So he did what he thought was the proper thing to do. We’re about to learn what his thought process was as he made the decision about what to do next.
Knodell Has A Good Sense Of Right And Wrong
In an interview after the fact, Knodell explained how he was feeling after he learned that the dresser and all the valuable things inside were worth a whopping $15,000.
“I bought the chest [of] drawers. I didn’t buy those things,” he said. “If I kept them, I would never feel right about it. There would be a cloud over the whole thing. It’s a feeling more than anything else.” Knodell’s strong sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ helped him make a decision he was comfortable with.
A Search Begins
It turns out that part of Knodell’s history guided him in his decision. “I’m an old ex-Marine, and I try to do the right thing,” he explained. Jeff Allen had the exact same gut instinct as Knodell: “‘let’s call the owner.’ There was never a question of anyone keeping it. It was ‘this is fantastic. Let’s call the owner and get the stuff back to them.'”
So that’s exactly what the two men set out to do. But that required figuring out who the owners were first…
A Family Member Helps Put Together The Pieces
It turns out that locating the owner of the surprise treasure trove was not as difficult as you might expect. In fact, the son of the deceased (who had owned the dresser) was the executor of the estate. And fortunately, he remembered seeing the dresser in his grandparents home in Michigan in the past.
Of course, the dresser’s valuable contents were a huge shock to him. He had absolutely no idea that any of that stuff even existed.
Peace Of Mind Comes From Doing The Right Thing
Emil Knodell’s gut instincts to do the right thing and return the valuables paid off for him. Not financially, as he legally could have claimed the $15,000 for himself and used it to bolster his retirement savings.
But that move wouldn’t have sat well with the former Marine. He returned every single item to the family of the deceased. Knowing that he had done the “proper” thing was peace of mind to Knodell, worth more than the money would have.
A Grateful Family
It’s always refreshing to hear a story of someone who does the right thing even at personal cost. Emil Knodell could easily have pocketed the large sum of $15,000 if he had wanted to. But his moral convictions led him to track down the family who he felt were the rightful owners.
That family is probably grateful beyond words to have their loved one’s treasure back, even though they didn’t even know it existed. We hope they gave Emil Knodell a sincere thank you for his honesty! And we certainly hope he continues to find great bargains at estate sales.