LEWISBERRY, Pa. (WHTM) — The international search for a Pennsylvania family is over.
Last week, NewsNation affiliate WHTM met Adam Wilson, a Toronto man who bought an antique camera off eBay with film still inside. When he asked the seller about where it came from, the only clue he got was a storage locker in Lewisberry.
With some internet sleuthing and help from viewers, WHTM found them.
“My sister called me, and she said, ‘Bob, you’re not gonna believe this,’” said Bob Bartoletti, who grew up in Wilkes-Barre, but lived most of his life in New Jersey.
He almost didn’t believe it, but there was his own face staring back at him from Christmas 1997. The photos were taken only a year later than Adam’s original guess of 1996.
“All these years? That’s 24 years ago,” Bartoletti said.
The Lewisberry connection comes from Bob’s sister, Maria. She lived in Lewisberry for years, even working for former Gov. Tom Ridge. Now, she’s in Florida, but she’s also the family member who figured it out first, after receiving a call from an old friend and a WHTM viewer.
“I just knew that if we could get them out there and get them back home they would be appreciated,” Wilson said.
Wilson could never imagine just how appreciated the photos would be to the family.
Bartoletti said one of them is now the only photo he has with Maria and their late father, James Bartoletti, who was a proud WWII veteran.
Christmas ’97 was also the first without Bartoletti’s mom and mother-in-law.
“It was a very meaningful time for us, and it was a very difficult year because both mothers were very ill for six-to-seven months of that year,” Bartoletti said.
“I was motivated by — the photos are lovely — like, in that it’s a loving environment and the people seem happy to be here,” Wilson said.
The stocking we thought had read “Mimzy” was actually for the family dog, Mikey.
Bartoletti also identified the beaming beau in one of the photos as Maria’s late husband, Marv Bulson.
Bulson was a Vietnam veteran, Naval Pilot commander and military recruiter in Harrisburg. Above all else, Bartoletti said his brother-in-law was an officer and gentleman.
“He captured that spirit. He really was. I often told my sister — I said, ‘if I had to pick someone to marry you, I couldn’t pick a better person than Marv,’” Bartoletti said.
Bulson died two years later in 1999, but in this world, his smile never dims.
Back in 2001, Bartoletti wears one of his own, grateful for the photographer who didn’t give up.
“[Wilson] went out of his way to do a good deed. It just restores your faith in humanity,” Bartoletti said.
“Too many people stop trying because they don’t think anything good can happen, and I never want to be at that point,” Wilson said.
The only mystery left is how Marv’s camera got into the storage locker. Bartoletti guessed that it might have been accidentally given away when Maria moved out of their house, but the couple never owned a storage locker.