Page by page, she tenderly caressed the photographs through the plastic covers in the photo album. There's the picture of her wedding, of her holding a daughter who died at age...

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Page by page, she tenderly caressed the photographs through the plastic covers in the photo album.

There’s the picture of her wedding, of her holding a daughter who died at age 6 in an automobile accident.

There’s the photo of her winning the vice presidency of her high-school class and another of her being crowned Miss Med Tech at her university in the Philippines.

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Birthday parties, christenings, 40 years of memories, all detailed in the album that Mari Lou Valley thought she had lost forever.

“Even if there was a time machine, I couldn’t meet these people and have pictures of them,” said Valley, who was reunited with her album yesterday in Seattle.

Valley, of Vancouver, B.C., said the album was stolen from a Greyhound bus in September while she was traveling between Vancouver and San Jose, Calif. When she changed buses in Seattle, she discovered the suitcase containing her three photo albums was gone. She suspects it may have been taken when the bus stopped for Customs at the U.S.-Canada border.

“I cried all the way to San Jose,” Valley, 58, said of the albums that chronicled her life from the Philippines to Philadelphia and then to Vancouver.

The album was found amid construction debris by an RCI Herzog crew working on Sound Transit’s light-rail project in South Seattle. Valley’s other two albums still are missing, but the one Herzog found was the most precious.

“I said, ‘Lord, it may be impossible but please, if you will it, it will be found,’ ” said Valley, who considers herself a born-again Christian.

Valley left the Philippines in 1974. She ran a travel agency, worked in sales and hopes to return to school for a nursing degree.

Even with the theft of her album, Valley said she believes in the goodness of people.

When her father, a former governor in a Philippines province, hired criminals to clean the governor’s mansion, Valley taught them religion.

“I taught them to be kind and caring,” she said. “Even in hardened criminals you can find goodness in them, and I brought out the goodness.”

The album cover is torn, the cloth that covered it is gone, and some pictures are missing. But there was little water damage despite the album having been dumped at a construction site.

Lauren Robison, with Herzog, searched for weeks to find the album’s owner but had no success until the story of the found album was made public. Friends and relatives of Valley contacted Herzog and The Seattle Times, and she was reunited with her album.

“When we found this album, we knew it was a priceless part of someone’s life and that we had to find the owner,” Robison said.

As a final irony, Valley rode a Greyhound bus to Seattle to retrieve the book yesterday. Asked whether she had any qualms because of her experience with the bus company, she said she had none.

“I’m not a person who dwells on the negative,” she said. But for her ride back to Vancouver, the album would be close by her side.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com