A West Haven hiker has caught the attention of some national media after unearthing a woman’s wallet in Milford that was believed to be deposited here nearly 30 years ago.
“When we talk about going into the woods, we always talk about finding treasure,” says Ian Stankiewicz, referring to hikes with friend Michelle Olsen, who was by his side when the discovery happened Sept. 30 at Eisenhower Park.
After stumbling upon the dirt-caked wallet in a section of dried swamp, Stankiewicz says he and Olsen went to a nearby field to check its contents.
The duo found credit cards with expiration dates in the mid-1980s, a Social Security card, old stamps and photos damaged by time, and a license belonging to Doris Coulombe of West Haven.
Naturally, Stankiewicz, 21, took out his smartphone and did a Google search of Coulombe on the spot. Results brought up the woman’s obituary; she had died in February of 2012 at the age of 95.
Through the obituary, however, Stankiewicz gleaned the woman’s son’s name, Donald Coulombe.
While he was searching for the son on Facebook, Stankiewicz sent out this message on Twitter: “Today while hiking I found a wallet that belonged to a lady who lost it almost 30 years ago!”
A friend who saw the tweet suggested via a response tweet that Stankiewicz pitch the story to Yahoo! News. But before he could, a reporter from the company also responded to Stankiewicz's initial tweet and soon after had him on the phone.
“I didn’t know it’d be front-page news,” he says of an article published Oct. 3 that to date has garnered nearly 800 comments.
While the West Haven resident says he’d absolutely accept an invitation to appear on TV, he’s more interested in connecting with the family of the woman whose wallet he found.
A graveyard theft
Stankiewicz was able to contact Donald Coulombe on Facebook and has since learned that the wallet was in fact stolen around 1985.
The theft occurred when Doris Coulombe was visiting her husband’s grave at Oak Grove Cemetery in West Haven, Stankiewicz says the son told him. A man had apparently smashed Coulombe’s car window, snatched the purse and escaped a pursuit by Coulombe.
Stankiewicz says there was no cash in the wallet when he found it buried in the dirt.
“To other people (the discarded wallet) is trash but it has stories behind it and those stories are pretty interesting,” he says.
Stankiewicz says he plans to return the purse to the Coulombe family when he meets with them in the coming weeks.