Fluke find reunites Juneau families

Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Call it a bizzare twist of fate that brought 11-year-old James Lown to Faye Bain's lost purse.

Here's the odd part: 15 years earlier, Bain's own son found an envelope containing jewelry owned by the Lowns.

Bain had reported her purse stolen from her place of work, Northstar Hot Tubs. She was delighted when the Juneau Police Department called her Sunday to let her know it had been found. They gave her the finder's name and phone number.

''When I called, I said to his mother (Janet Lown), 'I would like to have James there when I pick it up so I can give him some kind of reward,''' Bain told the Juneau Empire.

Janet Lown told Bain a reward wasn't necessary, Bain said.

''And I said, 'Oh, yes it is. Fourteen or 15 years ago my son found an envelope containing some jewelry ...' And she interrupted me, and said, 'Was it nugget jewelry and a string of pearls?'''

Simultaneously it dawned on the two women that they had met before; that Robert Bain, Faye's son, had found that jewelry and those very pearls when he was 9 or 10 years old. And Janet had given him a $50 reward.

Robert, now 25, lives in Seattle. The $50 was spent on a radio-controlled car, which is still stored in one of his mother's closets.

Janet Lown, a retired police officer, describes her son as ''just a normal boy who plays in the woods.'' James was playing with his friend Nathan Wilson when he found the purse in some weeds behind Faith Lutheran Church.

''It was really an amazing coincidence,'' Faye Bain said. ''I shook (James' hand) and told him he was a fine young man. And I told him the story of his mother and my son.''

It turned out that Lown's daughter Sarah had borrowed the jewelry for show-and-tell. ''I didn't know she had it, and, of course, all three daughters denied any knowledge,'' Lown recalled. Sarah, now a dispatcher with the Juneau Police Department, later confessed and retrieved the battered envelope containing the jewelry. However, it bounced out of her bicycle basket somewhere between school and home.

''We all searched the roadside but couldn't find it,'' Lown said. ''The jewelry had sentimental value, so I was so glad when I got the call from Faye.''

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