It all started 30 years ago in a pawn shop in Junction City, Kansas. A random customer sold a handful of $100 savings bonds at the pawn shop in return for some cash in hand.
All that was known of this man was that he was from Chicago and stationed at a local U.S. Army base. Nobody thought anything of it until Chris Mathis inherited the shop.
Mathis took over the shop for his dad and decided to make it his mission to return some savings bonds his father had accrued.
By the time he had finished, he had reunited 50 people with savings bonds they sold years earlier.
One stack of bonds alluded him, however. He couldn’t find any trace of Woodrow Wilson Jr. — the man from Chicago.
Police had a mugshot of Wilson — now homeless — but that was all the information they could provide.
Local news station WGN-TV heard of Mathis’ mission and decided to do their own digging.
WGN followed some leads on where Wilson could be found, but also came up empty.
The cold weather forced most of the local homeless population to flee to shelters, but those in the packed shelters said they hadn’t seen Wilson either.
Finally, WGN’s Erin Ivory was able to locate Wilson and told him the story of the savings bonds. “Yes! I remember the pawn shop!” he said.
Ivory told Wilson that his bonds had matured to $3,000. She showed him the picture Mathis had sent her, and that he wanted to give them back.
Initially, Wilson didn’t believe Ivory. So, she gave him her phone and let him talk to Mathis himself.
“He could have kept it himself and cashed it in,” Wilson said when the reality of the situation took hold. “I’m surprised he’s going to give it back to me. It means a lot because I don’t have nothing. It really helps me.”
Mathis is just happy to finally be able to close the book on the mystery of Woodrow Wilson Jr. After years of searching, he can finally give the bonds to a man who needs the money.
“I’ve been staring at these bonds with his name for years … started thinking I’d never be able to get them back to him,” Chris Mathis told WGN.
“Hearing his voice on the phone today was more than I could have hoped for. Made it all worth it.”
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