Vandals and thieves struck a particularly malicious blow in December when they stole mail and packages from homes in the Camino Heights area.
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The loss of one package in particular was important, not just because of its monetary value, but because of its sentimental value to the individual who made it and the person it was for.
J. Anita Thomas lives in Camino Heights and makes heirloom books for people. That includes editing the text and photos, designing them, and then producing and printing them in whatever number her client wants. Many of the books are family histories, wedding books, or books written by those who want to self-publish.
She said she worked a good part of December turning out 30 copies of a book called “My Journey” about the life of a Mr. Wilson, a 90-year-old man living in Southern California. She said she and the man’s daughter worked for almost a year to come up with a final proof of the book.
“I felt like Santa in his workshop,” said Thomas, who said she was so busy getting the book finished in December that she didn’t have time to set up a Christmas tree this year.
Thomas said there was a certain urgency to the task because of the man’s age and because of an accident he suffered this past summer when the motorized scooter he was driving was hit and dragged by a car.
While he is recovering, his daughter and Thomas were both worried that the combination of his age and the accident might cause him to pass away before the book was finished.
“They wanted him to see it,” said Thomas. “They even planned to have a signing party with him signing all the copies for the family.”
Thomas said the book is a compelling story of what it was like growing up during the Great Depression while living on a farm. It also recounts his time serving in WWII when he fought for 10 months with only 10 days of rest. For his acts of heroism and merit on the battlefield, he received five bronze stars.
“For that gift to be stolen,” said Thomas shaking her head. “A toy you can replace, but this book?”
The Camino Heights woman said she had just finished all the books, wrapped them for shipping and had set them out on her porch Dec. 20 for pick up by UPS in the hope they would arrive by Christmas. However sometime between 6 and 8 p.m., the thieves must have struck — stealing not only her package but that of others in addition to rifling through people’s mailboxes. “The whole neighborhood was hit, not just the street I live on,” she said.
Thomas said she didn’t know initially that the books had been stolen. She found out the next night when a neighbor called and asked if she had left any packages on the porch the night before because, “our neighborhood has been hit.”
She said some of the stolen packages and mail were later found scattered in the surrounding area. Thomas said she drove around hoping to find her package but couldn’t find it.
She said she felt terrible when she had to call Mr. Wilson’s daughter and tell her what had happened. “I felt horrible,” she added.
Wilson’s daughter, knowing how much work Thomas had put into the book was more than understanding saying, “We’re sick for you.”
“I wanted this gentleman to have this book before he died because my own mother died around this time last year,” said Thomas. “It was a gift of love from me. They were worried about me because they knew I had gone beyond the call of duty. They stole not just a book but something special.”
Since the theft, Thomas has ordered additional materials and is awaiting their arrival so she can remake the books and ship them off once again. So far there is no word on who the thieves and vandals were.
“When they took that box, they took more than just a gift or something that could be replaced,” Thomas remarked. “They stole months of work. Stole a gift of love for an old veteran who’s been waiting and who gave so much to this country. And now he didn’t get his books for Christmas. I hope he can hang on longer so we can get his books to him and his daughter hopes the same.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.