WATCH: Inheriting an old suitcase from world war two has brought a Cowichan Bay woman more surprises than she’d ever thought possible. As Luisa Alvarez shows us finding out who the suitcase belonged to has not only solved a family mystery but it’s brought her together with a step-sibling she never knew existed.
After her mother died Vivian Moreau inherited an old world war two suitcase with “Knapp R.S’ inscribed on it.
She remembered seeing that name around growing up but never knew who he was.
“I remember finding a book growing and asking who is this and it was no don’t talk about him cause it made mom sad,” said Moreau.
The mystery man was her mom’s first husband Roger Singleton Knapp. He was an American from Texas who joined the air force in the forties. He married her mother after meeting at a dance in Toronto but was later killed with his crew over northern France on May 20th 75 years ago during world war two.
“I never knew anything about him until about ten years ago when my mom died and I inherited this suitcase,” said Moreau.
The suitcase was filled with photos, a drawn portrait of him and his pilot log book.
“I own them but they aren’t mine,” said Moreau.
She began to learn more about the mystery man who, growing up, she learned to never speak of and discovered before coming to Canada he was married with children.
She wanted to find her step-siblings to return his personal belongings and eventually found Lea Barlow. Barlow was Knapp’s eldest daughter and was living in Manchester, Missouri.
“And I phoned her,” said Moreau.
“I was very excited about it I called my brother right away,” said Barlow.
They connected over this mystery they had in common and hope to meet one day but first, the suitcase filled with Knapp’s belongings will be sent to Missouri and Barlow can’t wait.
“I didn’t have anything really to hold onto to keep the memories and I think that will probably awaken a whole lot more of them,” said Barlow.
Barlow was young when her dad first left so she has very few memories of him but holds onto the ones she has.
“Every kid wants a dad you know and I didn’t have him there but at least I’d had him,” said Barlow.
And every year she remembers his birthday and pictures what life would be like with her father.
“I have my coffee in the morning and think well maybe he would have had one with me if he’d been there,” said Barlow.
Receiving his belongings will mean the world to her and Barlow hopes by having something tangible of his it will make her feel closer to a father she never knew.
“Even if the suitcase had nothing in it because it was his I think I will somehow feel closer to him,” said Barlow.
“I think it’s going to be amazing for her to actually see the handwriting in his log books and to know that this is who he was,” said Moreau.
Now with a sister gained and the family mystery solved Moreau says she hopes to meet Barlow face to face.