Portland family reunited with heirlooms found in wall - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland family reunited with heirlooms found in wall

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Courtesy: Valorie Affolter Courtesy: Valorie Affolter
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Two Northwest families were brought together Saturday afternoon by an old southeast Portland home and a few treasures discovered 15 years ago within its walls.

Portland resident Valorie Affolter said she was remodeling her bathroom in 2001, when she stumbled upon something very unexpected.

“It was just in the wall -- like we took the wall — we were redoing it, and took off the sheet rock and everything and it was just stuck in the wall,” Affolter said Saturday.

What she found was a rusty old spoon, a very old tin of ointment and a birth certificate dating from 1929 that belonged to a Eugene Walter Henning. 

Affolter no longer lives at the house, but she’s held on the the collection all these years, hoping to someday reunite the items with their owner. 

“If it was me and my family, I would want it back,” Affolter said. 

Recently she contacted Fox 12 and asked the team to help her track down the owner. KPTV connected and families and was there as Affolter gave them the precious treasures. 

Eugene Henning is no longer alive, but it was an emotional meeting for three of his children and his wife who came to pick up the items outside of the home that Eugene and each of them had once lived in. 

“This whole ordeal is just very special and brings back a lot of memories,” son John Henning said. 

For the children, it’s not just a piece of paper: the birth certificate solved a family mystery. 

“His actual birthdate is January 30th 1930, but this copy says his birthday is January 30th 1929,” Henning said as he held the certificate. He thinks the paper is the proof from the stories the family had heard about how Eugene Henning falsified his birth certificate so he could join the Marines when he was just 16 years old. 

Henning said his dad served for 12 years and suffered a gunshot would in Korea. He later become a truck driver and was killed along with his daughter 30 years ago in a tragic car accident.

Eugene Henning’s children describe him as the ideal father: a goofy, loving dad devoted to his family. A man who loved taking his kids on vacations and watching them in sporting events. 

John Henning got emotional as he talked about what it was like to get some of his father’s belongs back.

“It meant a lot,” Henning said. "My father is gone now, and being here at his childhood home -- where I had lived too, it’s very special.”

The family plans to display the treasured items, but as for how they got in wall of the house, and why they were placed there, they’re not quite sure. 

“Either my grandmother or my dad put it in there, and that’s a mystery,” Henning said. 

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