‘Needle in a haystack’

Published 8:38 pm Saturday, September 17, 2016

Woman’s cherished keychain retrieved at landfill

If finding a needle in a haystack is difficult, it must be that much more difficult to find a keychain at the landfill.

Susie Forsythe holds the keychain made by her late husband that was retrieved from the landfill after she accidentally threw it away.

Susie Forsythe holds the keychain made by her late husband that was retrieved from the landfill after she accidentally threw it away.

However, that’s exactly what happened when a handful of strangers and one very devoted friend came together to help a distraught woman who had accidentally thrown away a beloved memento of her late husband.

Susie Forsythe’s husband, Jack Brinkley, battled cancer for nine months. During his illness, he underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, so he had plenty of time on his hands while he was at home resting.

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“He started to make paracord things just for something to do with his time,” Susie said.

Jack churned out bracelets and lanyards by the dozens while he was sick, but one keychain he made for Susie was especially meaningful.

It was red, her favorite color. And he took his time to make sure he had it exactly right – a wrist loop on one end, with a clip on the other end for her keys.

“He was adamant that he wanted to make this for me,” Susie said. “I knew how important it was. This is the one he made specially for me.”

Jack died a week after finishing the keychain, at the age of 64, back in March.

Knowing that it’s one of the last things her husband touched makes Susie feel a little closer to him every time she sees the keychain.

However, on Aug. 24, she almost lost the link to her husband forever.

Susie returned from dinner out with a friend and threw her to-go cup in the trash as she walked in the door — and accidentally threw her keys in the trash as well.

She chopped some fruits and vegetables later that night, put the rinds and stalks in the trash and then took the final bag to the curb so the produce wouldn’t stink up the house.

The next morning, she went to leave for work and couldn’t find her keys. She started thinking about the last place she had them.

“Then I realized,” she said. “It hit me like a wave.”

She rushed to the window and could see that her trash had already been picked up.

“I was inconsolable,” she said. “The keys could be replaced, but the keychain couldn’t.”

She called her two daughters and cried. She told a friend at work what happened and said she wouldn’t be able to come in that day.

The friend at work, however, didn’t leave it at that. She sprang into action, and soon she was talking to Suffolk Public Works dispatcher Rita Walden on the phone.

“The lady that called was just so passionate, and I knew then and there I had to do whatever it took to help this lady find this item that was so sentimental to her,” Walden said. “I knew that she was heartbroken, and I knew we had to do everything in our power to help her find it.”

Walden looked up Susie’s address and contacted Timothy Bell, the trash truck driver.

Bell said his truck was only about half full and knew that he had picked up the trash in Susie’s neighborhood toward the beginning of his route.

Walden got permission from her supervisors and from the Southeastern Public Service Authority regional landfill to allow Bell to go to the landfill early. The landfill cleared a special place for Bell to dump his load, and he stretched the load out by pulling forward slowly as he unloaded.

Meanwhile, Susie had no idea that her friend from work – who was nine months pregnant – had not only called to orchestrate all this but also was on her way to the landfill.

“Next thing I know, she’s texting me, ‘What color trash bags do you have?’” Susie said.

Once her friend narrowed down the bags, she started searching through them and eventually found one with some of Susie’s mail. The treasured keychain was in the very next bag – and didn’t even have any fruit juice on it.

The friend delivered the keychain directly to Susie, surprising her when she pulled up to the house. Susie remembers hoping against hope when she saw her friend pull up in the driveway, still not completely aware of what had transpired at the landfill.

“That’s such a wonderful thing,” Susie said, holding the lost-and-found keychain in her hand and jangling the keys.

Walden, the public works dispatcher, said she was “beside herself” when she learned the keychain had been found.

“It was a great ending to a story,” she said. “I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it. That was like finding a needle in a haystack.”

Bell, the truck driver, said he was happy the keychain was found.

“I’m glad we could help her,” he said. “I’m just glad that she found it.”

Susie said she wants to thank everybody who helped retrieve the keychain and hopes to meet them soon.

SPSA employees who helped out included Dennis Deffily, Donald Byrd, James Stone and Jerome Jordan.

“This means so much to me,” Susie said.