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Washington, Ill. keepsakes turn up in Downers Grove, Westmont

Published: Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 11:51 a.m. CDT

DOWNERS GROVE – After the tornado destroyed Maureen Fandel's home in Washington, Ill., she found many of her photos just feet from where she kept them, but some in the same collection landed more than 100 miles away.

Six days after the storm, Westmont residents Keith and Fab Reich were raking leaves when they came across a single photo in the front yard, and one in the backyard.

Keith Reich had heard of downstate items swept up by the storm's powerful winds found in the Chicago area, so he posted each picture on a Facebook page for unclaimed items.

Sure enough, within an hour of the post, Fandel's sister recognized one of the photos as a picture of their father.

It's the sixth or seventh item from Fandel's home found in the Chicago area. Fandel, her husband Karl and seven-month old daughter Nora were safe in their basement when the tornado leveled their house. They are now living with her parents in Metamora.

"We don't have anything anymore," said Fandel, who is a high school teacher. "It really means a lot to get these old pictures back."

Curiously, she had even been in Westmont two days before the tornado. She is longtime friends with former Mayor Bill Rahn's daughter, and had driven north for the funeral. The "It's a small world" moments continued a week later when Reich realized that one of his best friends, Kevin Gleason, is Fandel's uncle by marriage.

"We were trying to think of the odds of that making it all the way up here, and then having the Westmont connection," Reich said. "What are the odds of that?"

No such coincidences have occurred with the second photo the Reichs found in their yard. It's owner has still not been discovered. He plans to send the picture to the Morton Public Library, which has taken up a collection of found items.

Facebook did help connect another Washington family that lost an item and a Downers Grove family last week.

Downers Grove resident Pamela Nicholas' son Anthony was playing in their yard Dec. 1 when he found what he thought was money.

"He brought it to me and I thought he was kidding," Nicholas said. "And I looked at it and I saw that it was a $50 savings bond."

Nicholas didn't think much about it at first, and just assumed it had flown off the back of a garbage truck or came from some other unremarkable place, until she looked at the owner's address printed on the bond.

"I put two and two together and I thought, 'Oh my gosh this came all the way from Washington and landed in our backyard,'" she said.

After some digging on Facebook, she was able to track down the Warren family in Washington by the end of the week.

So far, it's the only item they've found on their large lot that borders a wooded area, but they have kept looking.

"You never know," she said. "When I was looking online I've seen more people who have lost one or two items that mean the world to them."

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