Homeowner: They can’t steal the memories

Editor’s note: The writer of this story is one of many Addison County residents who has recently experienced a home break-in and the theft of precious family heirlooms of great sentimental value.
I returned to my home in New Haven on Friday, Jan. 11, after an enjoyable day at the Sheldon Museum, where I am the executive director, to find my back door ajar. I thought to myself, “The south wind must have been strong today or maybe I didn’t fully close the door.” My confusion quickly evaporated when I walked into the kitchen, noticed my gym shoes on the floor, rounded the corner into the dining room where several furniture drawers where open and my mother’s sterling silver four piece coffee/tea service was not on the side board. Stepping into the adjacent bedroom, the dresser was absent the three jewelry boxes and contents. I had been burglarized.
After a call to 911, Vermont State Police Trooper Evan Doxsee quickly arrived and reviewed with me the burglary, the missing items, and what appeared to be the interior path taken by the thief after kicking in the back door. The trooper reported a rash of similar incidents throughout Addison County and speculated that the need for drug money prompted the burglary. I telephoned my insurance company to report the theft, promising to follow-up once I identified the stolen valuables.
In the days that followed, while inventorying the losses, I found myself, rather than mourning lost objects or the invasion of my home by a stranger, celebrating the memories the losses elicited. While stationed in Seoul Korea in 1966 as a Special Agent in the USAF Office of Special Investigation, I spent a holiday in Tokyo, Japan, where I visited the old Imperial Hotel, an architectural masterpiece designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. While there, I bought for my mother, Katherine Ross Brooks, who grew up in Middlebury, a sterling silver, four piece coffee/tea service. For the next 20 years she entertained with the service, which reverted to me on her death in 1986. The service was lost in the burglary.
My father and his family were from Cambridge, Mass. My parents had met as students at Harvard and Radcliffe. My grandfather, whose name I share was mayor of Cambridge and responsible for inviting MIT to relocate there from Boston. A gold watch fob, inherited from him, formally inscribed WBF, and attached to a black ribbon, was also stolen, as was my father’s boyhood pocket watch with the initials WFB, Jr. (also my initials). I joined the pocket watch with the fob and silk ribbon in the vest pocket when attired in white tie and tails for holiday dances and debutante balls in Washington, D.C. On most occasions, however, the pocket watch was attached to a gold chair and gold locket, and worn by me with a three piece suite during my 25-year banking career. My grandfather died long before I was born, my father in 1992, but I inherited from both an interest I haberdashery. I thought of them and their legacies each time I sported the watch, chain, locket and fob.
Also stolen was a pin with the initials “HHH,” given to me for service in the 1968 presidential campaign of Hubert Horatio Humphrey, where I worked for the young Stu Eizenstat, later an appointee of both Presidents Carter and Clinton. I will always recall the long November night in Minneapolis where we awaited the news that Nixon had narrowly won. Other memories are elicited by the loss of my Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity pin, which recalled my undergraduate days at Kenyon College, my presidency of the fraternity, and Mary Fisher, to whom I had given the pin when I left America for my USAF duty station in South Korea. My romance with Mary did not survive the separation, but she kept the pin for many years as her political career in the Ford administration, highlight by her speech at the 1976 Republican National Convention, and her artistic careers flourished.
The thief or thieves, now attempting to find drug money for their newly acquired loot cannot take away the memories of family, friends, and loved ones represented by the stolen tokens of times cherished.
With so many local burglaries, law enforcement will hopefully soon identify the culprits by discovering the exchanges where the goods are being accepted. In the meantime, I am my more vigilant in activating my home alarm system, and more appreciative and recollecting of times past.

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