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Woman reunited with keepsakes from house

Staff writer

Mary Sprouse couldn’t believe the wonderful gift that showed up on her doorstep from a stranger who treated her precious keepsakes as if they were her own.

She carefully pulled items from the box and held each one up — often exclaiming in surprise at the discovery of a treasure Sprouse thought was lost to her forever.

“I am just really thankful,” she said as the light streamed into the living room of home in Hutchinson.

Sprouse left jewelry and baby mementos of then-newborn daughter Izabella, now 4, behind when she quickly moved out on her ex-boyfriend.

“It was a bad situation and I just left,” she said. “I got what I could and walked out.”

Sprouse was not allowed to return and retrieve anything from the Hillsboro house after she left.

She asked her ex about the missing items which included a box that contained Izabella’s hospital bracelet and her own, a pink bow her baby wore in the hospital, and jewelry made for Sprouse by her mother.

He flatly told her there was nothing left in the home.

“Then the county took the house and I thought everything was just gone,” she said. “If the county had it, then it’s going to be gone.”

A week ago, Korissa Harlow and husband Jeremiah showed up at the house to collect its kitchen cabinets.

Friends were gutting the structure and the Harlows, who were renovating their own home in White City, were welcome to the fixtures.

Harlow began to look around amid the dust and noticed “cute baby stuff” on the walls of an upstairs room that had obviously been decorated for a child.

“In one of the rooms, the only thing in it was a little blue box,” she said.

Harlow looked at the box and caught her breath when she saw a newborn’s hospital bracelet.

As a mother of five children, Harlow said she knew a mom would not mean to leave such a precious keepsake behind.

“I kept Hayley’s and I kept Ben’s and I have my other son’s things,” she said of her 14-year old daughter and infant son. “And my two adopted kids have nothing, so I know how that feels.”

Harlow a self-described “bleeding heart” who shares her homestead with rescued animals including horses, met her adopted daughter Brie, now 21, at Countryside Health Center in Topeka where Harlow became her mentor.

Then 15, Brie was trying to earn her certified nurse’s assistant license.

She quickly became a second mother to the girl and her brother Tyler, now 19, as they coped with their birth mother’s illness.

Harlow offered to adopt the two and take care of them. Their mother agreed.

“She met me in a coffee shop and signed the papers,” she said.

Brie and Tyler’s birth mom left and did not keep anything from their childhood.

“She threw it all in the trash,” she said.

The box Harlow found in the Hillsboro house’s upstairs bedroom sat open with costume jewelry strewn around it as if it had also been tossed.

Harlow then looked for anything else that might be someone’s lost treasure.

She grabbed a stuffed elephant, an old teddy bear, and shelves with baby blocks and put them in a cardboard box along with the jewelry box.

Her next problem: Finding out who these items belonged to.

She had precious little to go on. A hospital bracelet bore Sprouse’s maiden name “Mary Elizabeth Wasinger.”

A contact through social media eventually led Harlow to someone who knew Sprouse and they got in touch.

“It definitely was a surprise,” Sprouse said. “It was a rough month, when I got the call. I thought she was kidding. I never thought this was going to happen.”

Sprouse described the items to Harlow, who sent pictures to help her confirm they were hers.

The stuffed elephant was bought for newborn Izabella in the hospital gift shop. The teddy bear, 35-years-old was Sprouse’s from childhood.

Harlow is still trying to track down owner of the shelves. They look handmade and are signed: “To Brandy from grandpa, 1992.”

Sprouse is stunned Harlow saw old things and didn’t dump them in a bin.

“It has shown me that there are still good people who can see people’s memories and not throw them away,” she said. “They try and find that person so they can keep their memories and pass them down. That is definitely a good feeling.”

Last modified Oct. 14, 2020

 

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