Under the Sun
1:45 pm
Thu December 10, 2009

Episode 4: The Tale Of Lot 180

A tinker, a tailor, a soldier’s things– his rifle, his boots full of rocks
And this one is for bravery, and this one is for me
And everything’s a dollar in this box.

– Tom Waits

South Florida has long been a retirees’ paradise, and also a final resting place. But when people die, their family doesn’t always show up to gather their belongings.

So every year Florida’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property auctions off orphaned items from safety deposit boxes, like these keepsakes, grouped together in Lot 180.

In this particular case though– the belongs of Udavilla Rutherford, who died at age 91– a reporter couldn’t let it go.

Under the Sun and WLRN Miami Herald News reporter Kenny Malone had little more than a collection of salt shakers to go by, and a picture of a man and a woman in the snow. But with help from the Bureau’s data base, he launched a final effort to track down Rutherford’s family and piece together her life.

What he found were disconnected lines, wrong numbers, and then a few faded memories.  Listen to what Malone discovered, and perhaps more importantly, how much of her story was lost.

“And then Rutherford’s priceless memorabilia was given a price,” says Malone of the auction, “$650.”