Andreas Eggenberger (left) with his partner Janet Kiel and their son Grayson Eggenberger, 4, who found a sailor’s photograph tucked away in a magazine. They’re now on a mission to reunite the photo with the sailor’s family. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Andreas Eggenberger (left) with his partner Janet Kiel and their son Grayson Eggenberger, 4, who found a sailor’s photograph tucked away in a magazine. They’re now on a mission to reunite the photo with the sailor’s family. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River family seeks owner of mystery photo

Unknown sailor’s picture found tucked away in a magazine

Janet Kiel and Andreas Eggenberger have a mystery to solve.

It’s a black-and-white photograph of an unknown sailor from the Canadian Navy, dressed in uniform. The couple came across the photo last September, and now they want to get it back to its rightful owner.

It all started when their four-year-old son Grayson found the photo tucked inside a magazine in the waiting room of the Alder Medical Clinic, near the new hospital.

Eggenberger, who was with Grayson at the time, took it home. He posted it to his Facebook wall, but it generated little interest at the time. It was forgotten for a while, and lived on the family’s fridge at one point.

But earlier this month, Kiel decided to seek out the photo’s owner. She posted it to her Facebook wall on July 8.

“Well, who doesn’t love a good mystery to solve?” wrote Kiel. By July 25, the post had been shared 386 times.

It caught the eye of Sean Smith, who noted that HMCS New Glasgow – the name of the ship on the sailor’s cap – was built in Esquimalt, an area near downtown Victoria.

“Because she was built in Esquimalt, there is a good chance that the sailor was from B.C. or the Island,” said Smith, who served in the Canadian Army for 20 years and now trains cadets.

Smith made inquiries about the photo with friends at military museums in Nanaimo and Victoria.

They told him that without any unique identifiers on the photo, the best bet would be reaching out to the public.

A naval history website called “For Posterity’s Sake” notes that HMCS New Glasgow served primarily as a convoy escort during the Second World War, and once sank a German U-boat by ramming it. The ship was later refitted and served as a training vessel from 1954 until 1967, when she was paid off (the British term for decommissioned) in Esquimalt and then broken up in Japan.

Gerry Weir, who runs the website, told the Mirror the photo has been shared on every naval page in Canada. But family members of the mystery seaman are unlikely to belong to those groups, he said.

“Ninety per cent of us are retired sailors,” he said.

Kiel and Eggenberger remain on the trail of the photo’s owner. They’re driven partly by curiousity about the story behind the image.

Andreas Eggenberger (left), Janet Kiel and their son Grayson Eggenberger, 4, who found a sailor’s photograph tucked away in a magazine. They’re now on a mission to reunite the photo with the sailor’s family. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

On Saturday, the family visited the London Drugs on Dogwood Street – printed in a modern computer font on the back of the photo are the words: “This is a London Drugs certified quality print.”

The photo lab manager, Jackie, who declined to give her last name, couldn’t provide any information about the photo, but offered to place it in the lab’s backroom in case anyone asked about it.

Kiel, who is an educational assistant and a server at a restaurant, said that although she wanted to solve the riddle, she also felt some thrill in the mystery of it.

“I want to get it back to who it belongs to, ” Kiel said. “But then the story will be over. Like a good book, you don’t want the good book to end.”

Eggenberger, a chef at Berwick by the Sea, a retirement home, stressed the importance of photos as precious family artifacts.

“At the very end of the day, when it’s all settled and done, the only thing your family member really has is a photograph, a story of value behind it and the memories,” he said. “It’s something that should be valued and held onto.”

He also said that widespread interest in the photo shows that people identify with the Canadian military.

“It’s about Canada itself, because of that uniform,” he said. “A lot people can relate to that.”

Later on Saturday, they drove to the Alder Medical Clinic, where little Grayson had found the photo in the first place. Kiel showed the photo to a receptionist and explained the conundrum.

The receptionist, Rebecca New, took down some notes about the case, saying her manager might have an idea about who donated the magazines.

“A lot of the time it’s just people that we know bringing them in,” she said. “There may be a shot,” she said.

Since then, Kiel has sent out a number of inquiries, including to Royal Canadian Legions in Campbell River, Comox, Esquimalt and Halifax.

She has been in contact with a veteran of the New Glasgow, Robert Berbeck, who said the black cap indicates that it’s a pre-1960 photo.

However, at the time of writing, there has been no breakthrough.

Do you have any clues? Contact the Mirror.

 

Campbell River family seeks owner of mystery photo