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'Just so grateful': Ontario family recognizes old photographs found in Vancouver Island thrift store

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Toronto resident Heather Braithwaite will soon be receiving a series of old family photographs that were recently discovered at a Vancouver Island thrift store.

On Monday, CTV News Vancouver Island spoke with Gold River, B.C. resident Maxine McLean, who purchased an old photo scrapbook from a Campbell River thrift store.

After flipping through the book, she thought it was empty, until she later discovered that some photographs were still left inside the middle of the book.

She then began a search for the owners of the photos, and just one day after CTV News shared her story, members of Braithwaite's family recognized the decades-old pictures.

"I was like, 'Holy man, the power of the media,'" McLean said Tuesday.

"I never envisioned it would happen that quickly. If it ever happened at all, I thought it could be weeks or months, but I didn't expect it to be the next morning," she said. "So that was really incredible."

Braithwaite tells CTV News that the photo album belonged to her mother, who lived in the Comox Valley.

She died in July 2020, and many of her belongings were donated. Braithwaite thinks the photos were accidently given away in the shuffle, and McLean had already suspected that the donation was accidental, since the photos were found in the middle of the album, while the front and back appeared empty.

Braithwaite says one of the standout photos, showing a man in a white uniform, is a photo of her paternal grandfather.

Her grandfather, Jack Braithwaite, was a registered massage therapist and the decades-old photo of him is believed to have come from a newspaper in Waterloo, Ont.

Her father would go on to become a massage therapist, and in Toronto, Braithwaite now works as a registered massage therapist too.

"You'll see this in my clinic," she told CTV News on Tuesday, gesturing to a photo of her father's graduating class of massage therapy, dating back to 1960.

"I'm just so grateful and so delighted we'll be getting those photos back and I can't thank the kindness enough," she said.

Braithwaite says she and her brother were born in Toronto before they moved to the Comox Valley in 1988. Her brother would stay in B.C. while she returned to Toronto.

Back in Gold River, McLean says she's happy to see the photos being returned to their rightful owners.

"I was really thrilled," she said. "I was, like, dancing on the moon this morning when I got that message."

McLean says she packed up the photographs in a padded envelope and mailed them out Tuesday morning.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Canada Post carries it with love," she said.

McLean says that once the photos are received in Toronto, members of the family there will look through them and give her the story of who is who in each picture. 

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