A lost bible finds its way home

Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 6:18 PM AKST
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When a Girdwood man stumbled across a family bible in the bottom of a box of books he hoped to one day reunite it with its owner.

Steve Gorrell purchased the box for $5 at a donation sale to raise money for a local daycare.

He did not know that the book of faith, a gold-leafed bible, filled with mementos and family history, had been gifted to 17-year-old young woman from New York around the same year John F. Kennedy defeated Vice President Richard Nixon for the U.S. presidency.

But, it looked special, loved enough that surely someone was missing it.

Gorrell estimates he acquired the bible two or three years ago. He'd initially asked around Girdwood, a small ski town South of Anchorage, if anyone recognized the bible or the names inside. When they didn't, he shelved it until earlier this month, when he asked 2 Investigates for help locating the owner.

Among the clues was a newspaper clipping from 1968, describing the combat heroics and awards of a young army lieutenant with the "Screaming Eagles" 101st Airborn Infantry Division in Vietnam. Alan Lee Jonsen had earned an Army Commendation Medal, a Bronze Star, and a second Bronze Star with Oakleaf Cluster.

After moving to Alaska in 1982, he died six years later in a Fourth of July plane crash, according to an online obituary, leaving behind a wife and two sons.

The family lived and volunteered in Eagle River, north of Anchorage.

Judith Ashe Jonsen still resides in Alaska, as does the couple's grown sons, Eric and Shane.

KTUU learned Jonsen operates a guest house in Girdwood, located one mile from Gorrell's home.

Stunned to learn the bible had been found, Jonsen estimates it became misplaced eight, maybe nine years ago. Its loss to a donation pile - however it happened - was unintentional. After looking everywhere, she'd decided she'd just have to have faith it would somehow make its way back to her.

Gorrell and Jonsen arranged to meet at his home, where he'd safely kept the bible on a book shelf.

The evening they met, "Her face just lit up. She was just speechless for a few minutes," and "she just immediately started leafing through it," Gorrell told KTUU.

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