Man returns hidden treasure to rightful heir

Man returns hidden treasure to rightful heir

EDITOR'S NOTE: A clarification has been added to this story.

PORTLAND, Ore. - After a long day of spring cleaning nearly a year ago, Nicholas Grod came across something in his basement that would change his life.

It was under a homemade shelving unit in the mud room of his northeast Portland home.

“I kept staring at this and staring at this and kept coming back to this balanced leg in the middle and wondering, ‘Why is there only one leg?’ ”

After a little nudge and a kick, the leg came loose. It turned out to be holding up a homemade box hidden under the shelf. Inside, Grod said he found a package.

“My heart was pounding,” he said. “I could see through the wax paper there was typing on the envelope that it was in.”

He hoped it was cash, but instead it was something more historic and intriguing. He brought the package upstairs and discovered war and U.S. postal bonds dating back to the 1940s. He later determined they were worth nearly $200,000.

He said he felt a lot of emotions.

“I think the biggest one was probably greed,” he said, laughing.

[STORY CLARIFICATION: Nicholas Grod did research the bonds and realized he had no legal claim to them and could not cash them.]

He realized they were not his, and he decided he should do the right thing.

Grod eventually started researching the original owner of the house using the Internet, which led him to the U.S. Census.

Census data showed that Wilbert Petterson bought the house in 1927. He was a Portland firefighter with a wife and two daughters. Both generations were no longer alive, but an online obituary led Grod to a grandson named Thomas Fagg in Tulsa, Okla.

“I was really specific with him too to say, ‘You know, this is not a joke. I’m not just prank calling you,’ ” Grod said about the phone call he made to the stranger.

Fagg wasn’t sure he believed it at first.

“This can't be for real,” Fagg remembered thinking. “It honestly cannot be for real because things like this doesn't happen to people.”

But Grod sent him the bonds, pictures of a grandfather he never knew and a letter. The package arrived on Feb. 1.

“I’m giving you this freely because of my trust in the great universe and the belief that it’s the right thing to do,” Grod wrote to him.

“There is no words in the English language that can express the gratitude and admiration I have for this man for being so, so honest,” Fagg said.

Grod said he accepts the compliment.

“It's like a relief, you know,” Grod said. “It was a burden at some stages, you know, but now I feel that it's resolved for me and I can actually move on.”

Fagg said he plans to take a trip to Portland this summer so he can meet Grod and shake his hand.”