After 15 years, a social media post helps reunite a family with a long-lost heirloom

May 20, 2024, 5:17 PM

Chuck Perkins's 1980 carving of a cheetah went on a long journey to find its way home. (Courtesy Ce...

Chuck Perkins's 1980 carving of a cheetah went on a long journey to find its way home. (Courtesy Celia Bashaw via CNN Newsource)

(Courtesy Celia Bashaw via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — When her mother died two years ago, Celia Bashaw began dreaming about art, and not just any art.

Her thoughts were fixed on an heirloom her great uncle, Chuck Perkins, had carved. Her mother and grandmother had loved it. But Bashaw couldn’t find it.

She knew it had been picked up after her grandmother’s death when the family was going through her belongings, 15 years ago. And she knew her great uncle, who lived in Vermont, had given it away there, hoping the new owners would hold on to it.

As it turned out, they sold it.

So she decided to make a Facebook post in a group for Vermonters, hoping she could track down the buyers and get the piece back.

“(My mom) had a whole chest of photos. A bunch of photographs of everybody in the family and all the things that were really special to her.” Bashaw told CNN. “In those photos, there were very good, prominent photos of the family heirloom that I was looking for. Before, I hadn’t had any good photos of it. I just had a description.”

Bashaw attached three photos of the engraving, which portrayed a leopard lounging in a tree. The post was shared about 600 times, according to CNN affiliate WCAX.

Some commenters noted the piece looked different from the one Bashaw had originally posted. Bashaw replied while it had been through some wear and tear, she was able to confirm it was the same work from her great uncle’s woodburned signature on the back.

“It’s really a one-of-a-kind engraving, so when this man sent me a picture of it, I was like, ‘There’s no way somebody did something so identical to my uncle’s carving,’” Bashaw said. “It’s got to be the one, like there’s no way I can let this go.”

A solution to a quest

Then, in Rutland, Vermont, Chris McKirryher and her partner, Phil Matte, saw the Facebook post and realized they had the solution to Bashaw’s long-shot quest.

At a yard sale in Pittsford, Vermont, the couple had bought the carving.

They arranged a meeting and Bashaw made the two-and-a-half hour drive from Plattsburgh, New York, to Vermont. She told CNN McKirryher and Matte were “just so darling” and she “loved them immediately.” Despite being nervous about meeting strangers from the internet, Bashaw found the duo were “so nice and such great people.”

“With all the bad news and everything going around, it’s good to see something really nice,” Matte told WCAX, who agreed to sell it back to Bashaw.

In an updated post to the Facebook group, Bashaw shared her excitement at being reunited with her great uncle’s artwork, thanking her friends, family and community for sharing and helping her find the piece. “I’m over the moon happy (and) lucky.” she wrote.

Now, Bashaw feels like a piece of her mother and grandmother has come back home.

“It’s really nice because I don’t have very many things of my mother or my grandmother and actually, it’s been extremely hard for me to even find a picture of me and my grandmother together. We were so close, and it just makes me so sad.” she said.

“Having a piece of art that was so important to them finally be back and in my grasp… I wish I could tell my mom about it because she would just scream, just like I did … I hope she can see it now that I have it back because she was looking for it too,” she added.

Bashaw, an artist herself, plans to put the carving back in her grandfather’s house instead of in her own.

“He has the wall still where there’s like, almost a frame outline of where it used to be, so it’s like as soon, I put it there, it’s just supposed to be there. So, I think it’ll bring some solace to my grandpa, too.” she said.

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After 15 years, a social media post helps reunite a family with a long-lost heirloom