ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A shoeshiner at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport will get a free trip to Chicago to visit family because he's an honest man, says his new benefactor, who owns a couple of Alaska strip clubs.
The shoeshiner, Cleo Bishop, 49, found a lockbox that may have contained thousands of dollars near an airport ATM. But turning aside selfishness, he reported his find.
Bishop spotted the box when he started work one day last week. It was sitting on the floor beside the ATM.
Bishop had a good idea what was in the box, and he admits he was sorely tempted to grab it. Instead, he called over an airport officer.
The officer later told Bishop that the box, screened by a luggage X-ray machine, contained a lot of money, perhaps as much as $20,000. It had been left behind by workers servicing the ATM.
The credit union responsible for the ATM would not confirm that the box contained cash. But it did provide Bishop ''with a token of our appreciation,'' credit union officials said.
Late last week, an executive from the credit union gave him a $500 check, according to Bishop, who used most of it to pay bills.
Enter Terry Stahlman, who flies regularly from Anchorage to Fairbanks, where he owns strip club similar to the Showboat Showclub he runs in Anchorage.
Stahlman has patronized Bishop's shoeshine stand. They've played some cards together.
''He's a poker player,'' Stahlman said. ''He's like me, he's a B player.''
Stahlman was impressed that Bishop resisted the urge to take the box home.
Bishop unquestionably could have used the money, Stahlman said. His education is limited. He has worked as a dishwasher, janitor and bootblack. Bishop lives with a brother at a Spenard hotel and has to take a cab to work because he lost his license 10 years ago.
But when the time came for a moral decision, Bishop didn't flinch.
''He confronted himself,'' said Stahlman. ''This guy has never had a break. So here comes a break.''
But Bishop decided to do right, and thereby gave the community a needed boost, Stahlman said.
''I mean, it's bad news all around,'' said Stahlman. ''So to pick up the newspaper and read about this guy was so uplifting.''
Stahlman is planning to hold a fund-raiser called ''Cleo Bishop Night'' at each of his clubs on Sunday evening, March 9. Bishop will appear at the Anchorage club.
Patrons will be encouraged to donate money to send Bishop to Chicago. Bishop had said his highest priority, if he had kept the money, was to visit a brother and nephew in Chicago.
Stahlman promises to get him there, even if donations come up short.
''No matter what happens,'' Stahlman said, ''he's getting a round-trip airplane ticket to Chicago.'' And an additional $500 check for spending money.
If patrons at the clubs pony up more than the cost of the trip, any extra will go to a children's charity, the club owner said.
''I'm going to turn 60 in August,'' said Stahlman. ''I'm getting close to talking to Jesus. I better start thinking about doing good.''
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