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Searching with hope, they recover treasure

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, May 12, 2007, at 6:01 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at 5:15 p.m.

— More than anything else, Marvin Lawson is a Marine.

So the Korean War veteran, who also served three tours in Vietnam, had three belongings foremost on his mind when he learned he could go back to what was left of his home in Greensburg:

His chunky gold Marine Corps ring. And two watches that praise his service in Vietnam.

Perched on top of what used to be the wall of his bedroom, near a tree that held a shredded mattress, the 70-year-old searched for bits of his past.

When everything you own is ripped apart, you quickly decide what's important and what's not.

When we asked Greensburg residents what they most hoped to find in the wreckage left behind by the May 4 tornado, overwhelmingly, they said it was the stuff of memories they yearned for.

The photographs and heirlooms. The rings and love letters.

Hoping for keepsakes

When Raylene Howard got divorced, her mother bought her a "change of life" ring.

Howard figured it and her other jewelry were forever lost to the storm.

But on Wednesday, she wore four rings on her fingers.

Somehow, they all turned up in the rubble at 122 W. Lincoln.

A firefighter found two for her.

Howard still hoped to find keepsakes like the photo of her grandmother that sat on a bookshelf and was titled "The Poet."

"We can replace our clothes," she said. "We can replace our appliances. We can replace our furniture."

But the No. 1 thing on her mind was her animals.

Her Sheltie, Buddy, and bird dog mix, Riley, turned up quickly. She was still looking for her Siamese cat, Sherman.

Personal data

Kris Saulsbury said he and his brothers have started over before.

In the past, though, it was their own fault, he joked.

This time, they could blame a tornado.

Saulsbury, 33, had one thing on his mind when he made his first trip back into Greensburg: His computer.

Not because he's an Internet addict.

Because all the documents he needed for a custody case were on it.

"I grabbed the hard drive, the brain," he said. He's supposed to go to court this week.

He also searched the debris for his birth certificate, which he didn't find, and his Social Security card, which he did recover.

Leo Saulsbury, one of Kris' younger brothers, said they were all more worried about recovering their mother's belongings than they were their own.

"She's getting too old to start over," he said. "We're going to get her on her feet first."

What she wanted the most from their home was a picture of her brother, Robert, who was killed a while back by a drunk driver.

"We're still looking," he said.

Prized possessions

Lawson, the Marine, is a spitfire of an old man.

His ring and watches are important to him because they are "reminders of being in a good branch of service," he said.

"They keep me going."

Although he hadn't found his prized possessions, he did find belongings that brought a smile to his face.

A black and white photograph of his father, Olif Lawson, who served in World War II, survived the storm. The picture was dry and remarkably undamaged, protected by a plastic frame.

Lawson also found weathered $2 bills from his beloved collection of currency and coins and mud-covered beer steins.

"Got a whole bunch of quarters and pennies," he said, raking his hands on what was once his bedroom floor. "I'm going to keep looking until I find them all."

Contributing: Kansas City Star

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