A volunteer found a mysterious videotape in a ‘Titanic’ VHS box set donated to a Yakima thrift store. The store’s managers decided to try to track down the people on the tape.
Kenny and Annette married on Aug. 4, 1946. He served in the military and she was a nurse. They had two boys and two girls.
Debbie Jones and Robbin Parsley knew that much from watching the mysterious videotape that surfaced at The Olde Lighthouse Shoppe in Yakima on July 5.
In a parade of photos spanning two lifetimes, they saw Kenny and Annette as children, teens and young adults in love. Babies appeared, and bicycles and pets. They saw Easter finery, children on Santa’s lap and birthday parties.
Sepia-toned photos became black and white, then color. Ties got shorter, hair got longer and lapels got wider. Parents became grandparents.
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Who were Kenny and Annette? Jones and Parsley turned to Facebook.
“It says, ‘Mom and dad’s golden anniversary,’” Jones read in the video they posted that day on the shop’s page.
“Somebody’s in big trouble!” Parsley declared.
“You’d better get down here and get it!” Jones said.
A volunteer had discovered the video in a two-tape set of “Titanic” and asked if he should throw it away. Jones and Parsley, who are manager and assistant manager of the thrift store, decided to find its owner.
“It broke our hearts to think that it was lost,” Parsley said.
The Yakima Union Gospel Mission operates the thrift store, which features gently used specialty goods and antiques. Donors often leave items at the mission, though some bring donations directly to the shop.
Rogue donations occur. “We get people who say, ‘My husband accidentally donated my grandma’s china,’ ” Parsley said.
Jones and Parsley watched the video in the thrift store’s delightfully cluttered repair shop. As it concluded after more than half an hour, they learned the names of Kenny and Annette’s four children: Rodney, JoAnn, Greg and Pam.
“No last name!” Jones said.
“It’s still a mystery. We just know their faces,” Parsley added.
Their Facebook video was shared 61 times and got more than 1,700 views. Someone Googled Kenneth and Annette and their wedding date and Yakima.
And then, a snippet of an obituary for Julia Annette Sewell, who married Kenneth Sewell on Aug. 4, 1946, in Tieton. She was a nurse at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Yakima. She had four children named Rodney, JoAnn, Greg and Pam. She was a member of First Baptist Church in Union Gap, where she lived.
Annette died on March 3, 2004, at home. She was 81.
Greg Sewell lives in Union Gap. Kenny Sewell, who is 94, lives in an assisted-living facility in Yakima. Rod Sewell lives in Yakima, and after a knock on his door and a pleasant conversation, the mystery was solved.
“I do know that my daughter’s copy was stolen” a few years ago, said Rod Sewell, who is 68. He has three boys and a girl.
On Friday, he and daughter Laura Sewell, 30, met Jones and Parsley at the store. “Let’s look at your face, because we’ve seen your pictures,” Jones said as Rod Sewell laughed.
He, his brother and their sisters, JoAnn Thatcher, of Goldendale, and Pamela Rowe, of Oregon, all contributed photos.
“I think it took a couple of months. We all gathered every photo we could find,” and Scott Gray, of Goldendale, created the video and made five copies, Rod Sewell said.
Born in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, their mother grew up in Cowiche, Rod Sewell said. “Her dad worked for the railroad, and the story always was that she was born in the (train) station in Idaho.
“Dad was a licensed pilot who could fly before he could drive. He was flying before his parents knew about it,” he said.
They marveled at the “what ifs.”
What if the person who stole the tape from the shed behind Laura Sewell’s home in Selah had thrown it away? What if the store volunteer hadn’t checked the tapes in the “Titanic” box? What if he had thrown the tape away instead of showing it to Jones and Parsley?
“I can’t believe it was in ‘Titanic,’ ” Laura Sewell said.
“For (the volunteer) to look inside and actually find it,” Parsley said.
“It was fate,” Sewell added.
She remembered going with her grandmother to the mission in the summers, when Annette Sewell baby-sat her grandchildren and volunteered there. That was in the mid-1990s, Sewell said — around the time the videotape was made.
Annette drove a red Volkswagen Beetle, made great strawberry-rhubarb pie and urged her granddaughter to always stick with the truth, Laura Sewell told Jones and Parsley.
Sad that she didn’t realize it was missing, Sewell was glad she still owned a VCR.
“I’m going to go home and watch it,” she said.