TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA — A Twentynine Palms woman is seeking the public’s help in identifying the subject of a photo she found after purchasing a frame in a thrift shop.
The hunt began after Alyssa Dunn moved from Quantico, Virginia to Twentynine Palms and discovered she needed an extra picture frame to decorate a bathroom, she said in an email. She and some newfound friends — who bonded over scouring thrift stores for deals — had previously stumbled upon a charming Joshua Tree thrift store. So when Dunn needed a picture frame, she knew where to go.
She didn’t anticipate beginning a journey to “[find] the home of a mysterious photo” featuring a stranger reminiscent of her Papa, photographed in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Pleasanton seven decades ago.
“I walked into the store, greeted by the smell of leather and well-loved books,” Dunn wrote. “I zigged and zagged over to the picture frame section.”
And there it was: A 49-cent black picture frame that was a perfect fit for her bathroom wall.
As she peered into the frame, she saw a photo of a man posing next to an airplane. He looked familiar, like her late Papa.
She said she gently removed the photo and saw someone had scrawled on the back of the photo, “Dow Field Pleasanton, CA. July 1949. Daddy — 27 years old.”
Dunn was breathless.
“Even thinking of throwing this photo away hurt my stomach,” she wrote. “This is someone’s dad, this is someone’s papa.”
She turned to her friends to ask for advice. None could bear to see her throw the photo away, but suggested she take to social media to track down the man with the face like her Papa.
Dunn launched a search in her own community and joined a Pleasanton Facebook group, calling on the community for their help. Dozens of commenters responded enthusiastically to her quest, some suggesting she contact Pleasanton’s Museum on Main.
A Museum on Main employee responded to say the museum was looking into the subject of the photo and invited her to donate the photo to the museum for preservation. Dunn said she will donate the photo if the man’s family cannot be found.
“He has people who love him, who remember him. I hope this photo is placed lovingly on a mantle, with warm light dancing upon it each and every night,” she wrote. “I hope the man in this photo is remembered. That is my hope and prayer and wish.”
“I am just one girl in this world. But maybe with the help of a community, this one girl can make a little bit of a difference.”