Sheryl Rehmer was a labor-and-delivery nurse in her early 30s when her wallet went missing at the old St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Belleville more than 20 years ago.
What she hated most was losing a dozen or so photos of her two small children, Bonnie and Paul.
"And there was a really nice photo of my mother," said Rehmer, now 52, of Horse Prairie, near Red Bud. "It was my favorite photo of her, other than her wedding photo."
But Rehmer got the wallet back last month, thanks to a trio of good Samaritans doing hazard-abatement work to prepare for the hospital's demolition. It was found hidden on a dropped-ceiling tile.
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Senior Project Manager Chris Tedder even took the time to track down Rehmer, not knowing if she was dead or alive or still residing at the address on her two-decade-old driver's license.
"I thought, 'If it was me, I would want the pictures back,'" said Tedder, 56, a geologist who works for HRP Associates, an environmental and engineering consulting firm with an office in St. Charles, Missouri. "If someone were to find my wallet, I would want them to at least try to find me."
The unlikely tale began in the mid-1990s, when Rehmer and her St. Elizabeth's co-workers were ordering lunch for delivery. She discovered that her wallet was missing from her tote bag, but she didn't know if it had fallen out or if someone had taken it.
"I just remember that I was panicking because I couldn't find it," she said. "I was like, 'Oh my God, where is it?'"
Rehmer had to cancel her credit cards, get a new driver's license and Catholic notification card and accept that the family photos were gone forever.
Fast forward to Feb. 26, 2018. Abatement worker Brian Tinnon was removing ceiling tiles on the fourth floor of the old hospital when he found a tattered burgundy women's leather wallet. He gave it to abatement inspector Greg Lomax, who took it to Tedder's office.
"I said, 'Hmmm ... This is old. The newest thing in here expired 18 years ago,'" Tedder said. "And all the pictures were 20 years old, judging from the hairstyles."
Tedder Googled Rehmer's name and found her address and phone number at WhitePages.com. The address matched her old driver's license, but he consulted a St. Clair County database to make sure her family still owned the property.
Tedder then called Rehmer's landline and left a message, which was retrieved by her husband, Louis, a farmer and owner of a landscaping and tree business.
Louis Rehmer called his wife at work to deliver the crazy news. She's now an occupational nurse for employees at the new St. Elizabeth's Hospital in O'Fallon.
"I was not only shocked at the find, but also what (Tedder) did to track me down," Sheryl Rehmer said. "That was above and beyond. He didn't have to do that."
Rehmer immediately drove to the old hospital site to get the wallet. There was no cash in it, but all she cared about were the photos of her children, Bonnie Myers, now 31, and Paul Rehmer, 27, both of Columbia; and her mother, Verna Levery, 88, of Red Bud.
Three weeks later, Tedder's good deed still makes Sheryl Rehmer smile.
"There are still good people in the world," she said. "He proved it. There's so much negativity out there. It's kind of a breath of fresh air."