As 2010 drew to its close, Gilford Mongoyak, Jr. was driving near Sam & Lee's Restaurant in his hometown of Barrow when he saw a suitcase lying in the road. Gilford does not own a car, but he had rented this one so that he could take care of some year-end business. Before returning it, he thought that he would just take a nice little evening drive about Barrow and that is what he was doing when he came upon the suitcase.
There were other people out and about, on the road, walking, driving, but no one paid any attention to the suitcase. Gilford drove right past it himself, but then decided that he ought to check it out. He backed up, picked up the suitcase and examined the outside of it.
It carried no identification, so he drove home and took the suitcase inside and showed it to his wife. They did not want to open it, but they did want to return it to its rightful owner and so they opened it up to see if there was any ID inside.
There wasn't, but there was something bundled up in white wrapping paper. "I opened that up," Gilford told me over the phone after I called him to find out this event that I had first learned about through Facebook had come to pass. "I found bills. I said to my wife, "it looks like $10,000."
They did not know what to do, so they started to talk.
"My hands kind of started really shaking with that kind of money right there," he says. "We say, really, what should we do? So my wife and I decided the best thing to do was to take it to Public Safety (Police Department)."
I took the above snapshot of Gilford day last August after I happened upon him as I walked through the Iñupiat Heritage Center in Barrow. I thought that it would be good to include Gilford in a project that I am working on and so I took this quick snapshot to remind me to go back and find him at later date when I had the time to do it right.
So Gilford and his wife took the suitcase to the Police Department. They entered to find a receptionist behind an opaque black window. They stated their business and then a police officer came out to see them.
"You won't believe what I found," Gilford remembers telling him, "look, it's $10,000."
The officer opened up the suitcase and studied the contents
"Then he took a look up at me and said, 'you know what? It's not $10,000. It's $50,000.'"
Gilford asked the officer if anyone was looking for $50,000. The officer told him yes, a woman from Osaka Restaurant.
Due to a back injury, Gilford is unable to work in the labor force that once sustained him. He supports himself primarily through the sale of his art. Here, he has set up in the Heritage Center. Some days, he does okay. Somedays, there are no sales.
Shortly after that, some other officers came in, as well as woman from Osaka who Gilford believes was the owner. I called Osaka to see if could find out who she was, talk to her and get more information, but was told that no one could talk to me about the matter. I also called the Police Department, where a spokesman told me that they could not comment at this time.
Gilford describes the woman as being very happy to get the money back and says she was wearing mink. He believes she had planned to leave on the evening flight south.
"She asked for my name and number. She was happy, shaking," he recalls. "I thought she would call me that night."
She never did call, so a couple of days later, Gilford called her. "I asked her if there is any reward. She said, 'I buy you dinner?'"
The offer did not appeal to him.
There were those who told him that instead of an offer for free meal, he could have kept the entire $50,000 and no one would ever have known.
"A lot of my friends told me that. But I was raised in a good Christian home with a good Christian mom and dad. They always taught me to do the right thing. I have friends who are saying that I was a good Samaritan. My daughter is proud of me."
His sister, Claudia Mongoyak, who first informed me of Gilford's discovery is also proud of her brother. "I am honored to have such an honest and trustworthy brother," she told me on Facebook.
"My brother Gilford is unemployed due to back problems and makes a living out of selling his carvings and jewelry. He once found a wallker with $500 or $600 in it and called that person and that person was so appreciative to get her wallet back."
As to the offer of a free dinner at Osaka, "I don't know what to say about that. LOL."
If he could have kept the money, one friend asked, what would he have done with it? "I would have bought a brand new washer and dryer. Our windows are no good. They let too much cold air in. I would have totally fixed the house up.
"I was rich for like 15 or 20 minutes," he laughed.
If anyone should care to learn more about Gilford and his art or to make a purchase, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And this from Wasilla:
The holiday is over and the boys have returned to Anchorage to go to day care and be with their parents, but, before they did, Kalib grew bored with doorknobs. He decided the best way to get into a pantry is with his spatula.
When his mom arrived to pick him up, he raced to the window and kissed her through the glass.
Jobe was greatly amused by the walking fingers of his grandma.
Jobe and Kalib spend their last moments with this season's Christmas tree. I am very sad to say it, but next time they come out this tree will be gone.
The holiday season is over.
The carols will now fall silent.
That certain feeling that comes only at Christmas is gone and will not be back for nearly a year.
And this one from India:
About 35 or so miles south of the broiling city of Chennai sits the temple at Mamallapuram