In 1961, a bracelet slipped from the hand of an easily distracted six-year-old boy in Fayette, Missouri.
Almost sixty years later, Pam Kilpatrick Crawford, a grandmother and active community volunteer, was browsing the jewellery case of a Goodwill thrift store in Athens, Georgia, when she spotted a man's bracelet. The small medallions attached to the chain caught the eye of the self-described "thrift store and flea market junkie." She recognized them as being from University of Georgia. Looking more closely, she saw the name, "J. McRee Elrod" engraved on the back of one the medallions, which further intrigued her, because McRee was the maiden name of her husband's mother.
She bought the bracelet for four dollars, brought it home, and it sat half-forgotten on the top of her dresser for several weeks until she decided to put a call out to her Facebook friends to help her find "J. McRee Elrod."
Every self-respecting Southerner with a Facebook page is going to have friends who are keen genealogists and internet sleuths, and Pam Crawford is no exception. Within minutes, one of her friends found an online obituary for J. McRee Elrod, who had died aged 84 in June of 2016. He was a Georgia native, although he had spent all of his adult life outside of Georgia, and his mother had lived in Athens for many years.
In his junior year, he'd attended a Christian youth conference in Kansas where he met a pretty blonde Yankee named Norma Cummins. When the two day conference wrapped up, he proposed marriage to her, and although she refused him, they kept in touch with frequent letters.
Fate intervened when Mac won a Carnegie scholarship which enabled him to pursue a master's degree in Nashville, where Norma was also attending university. They were married in 1953. Mac obtained two Master's Degrees (in Library Science and Theology) and was ordained as a Methodist minister at 22 years of age.
After five years in Korea, Mac and his family returned to the United States, where he worked as a university librarian in Tennessee and Missouri (where he was involved in the civil rights movement), and Ohio. The family emigrated to Canada in 1968, in large part because of their disillusionment with the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. They became increasingly progressive in their political and religious opinions, leaving the Methodist church and becoming Unitarians. They raised a family of six children in Vancouver, Canada.
Mac was an internationally known figure in the world of library cataloguing, advocated for many social causes and showed no signs of slowing down as he entered his 80's. The greatest sorrow of his life was losing his oldest son to heart failure at age 44. Elrod was diagnosed with leukemia in the spring of 2016. He greeted the news with stoic composure and died three months later.
"No, your father never wore bracelets," was her mother's first reaction. Lona asked Pam Crawford to email a photo of the bracelet, which she promptly did.
When Mrs. Elrod saw the photo, she instantly recalled a long-forgotten summer day in Fayette, Missouri, almost sixty years ago: Mac was working as head librarian of Central Methodist College. He phoned her from work, asking her to send their son Mark to bring the bracelet to him. (In those days, sending a six-year-old child on a short solo errand was not considered to be unspeakably negligent.)
As Norma recalls, "Mark started out for the library, but, being Mark and being only six years old, he lost it on the way to the campus. When he came back and told me he had lost it, I immediately set out to look along the way, being careful to check into the weeds which lined the path on both sides. Later both Mac and I searched but weren't able to find it."
They gave up, and concluded that the bracelet and its medallions were lost forever.
Who knows where the bracelet spent the intervening years before ending up in that thrift store?
Whether Pam Crawford and Norma Elrod are distant relatives by marriage, in addition to being new internet friends, has yet to be determined. They plan to do a little more genealogical digging. But perhaps even the internet cannot solve the mystery of how Mac Elrod's bracelet made its way from the a pathway in Fayette, Missouri to a shop in Athens, Georgia, almost sixty years later.