By Barbara A. Schmitz
If you’ve lost something, it’s likely it will be found and returned to you. EAA’s Lost and Found/Information volunteers make sure of that.
Lost and Found Chairman Gary Sternberg said 12 volunteers, with a combined hundreds and hundreds years of service, work the building located near the AOPA tent and first aid building on the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds. Although the building is officially open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, these volunteers help return items like cameras, cell phones, sunglasses, and car keys well after their official closing for the day.
Gary said the most common question they get is “where is,” whether it be the forums, workshops, Wearhouse, and more.
The most common things lost? Cell phones and glasses.
But there’s been quite of collection of odd things found and returned to the rightful owner, as well.
“Last year, Martha the cockatiel flew in past the control tower and landed in Paul’s Woods,” Gary said. The male pet bird had escaped its Oshkosh home, made it nearly 5 miles to the AirVenture grounds, and then managed to befriend a couple who were familiar with birds and knew to contact Lost and Found. It took some investigative work and a little luck, but Martha was reunited shortly after with her family.
Gary said they’ve also helped to find a glass eye, false teeth, wedding rings, including one lost for two years, and a dog named Pee Wee in a carrier bag. Evidently, Grandpa was left in charge of the dog while the family checked out the grounds, and he forgot about it and walked away.
Probably one of the most difficult items to return was a Chinese passport, Gary said. They went through the Chinese Embassy and the International Visitors Tent to get the visitor a temporary passport, and when someone eventually found the passport, it was sent to the embassy to be returned to its owner.
Valuable items are held until the next year, in hope that people will come back to retrieve them, Gary said. But other items, such as sunglasses, clothing, and so on are donated to various organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul.
His advice to AirVenture guests is to agree on a place to meet if you get separated from your group. “We have lost far more adults than children. Parents are good at saying, ‘If we get separated, meet at the control tower or wherever.’ But adults don’t make that plan and not everyone carries cell phones.”
Vice Chairman Grayling Peterson said the Lost and Found was started when the fly-in convention was held in Rockford, Illinois. “Ray Fiset said to [EAA founder] Paul Poberezny, ‘What can I do to help?’” Grayling said. “Paul gave him a card table and a basket,” and Lost and Found was created.
Today the facility is air-conditioned and includes bins labeled with cameras, glasses, watches, jewelry, tools, and more. They also provide vendors with lost and found bins, which they pick up daily, ensuring that items get to one place.
“We encourage vendors to call us at 920-270-7910, and we tell them we will come and get whatever they find,” Gary said. “Vendors think people will come back for their credit cards and cell phones, but too often they don’t know where they stopped and lost them.”
People looking for lost items can call as well. “We don’t mind phone calls at all,” he said.
However, items lost within Camp Scholler should be taken to the Lost and Found there, located in the security building on Schaick Road.