BY MELANIE BUCK –
In May of 1980, Todd Hairston, a Mena graduate, was cruising town with friends. It was graduation night in Mena and upon seeing friends gathered together at the Cone ‘n Cue, he pulled in. Among the group at the favorite local teenager hangout was his friend, Carla.
Upon seeing him, Carla came running to give him a hug. As she leaned into his truck window, her class key, being worn as a pendant on her necklace, got caught, broke, and fell into the interior of his door. Considering it a loss, she forgot about the key, and life moved on.
After much time had passed, Hairston retrieved the class key from his door and put it away, thinking of returning it to her, and again, life moved on.
He eventually moved to Dallas, where he now resides. Recently, Hairston has overcome a battle with Stage 4 Colon Cancer and experienced all of the challenges and emotions that accompany a life altering diagnosis. Due to his diagnosis, Hairston made a ‘bucket list.’ Among the list was to return the class key that he has kept in his dresser drawer for almost 35 years. “These are meant to be keepsakes and it should find its way back to her,” stated Hairston.
Having lost contact over the years with his classmates, it was at that point that he decided to contact The Pulse for help in returning this momento to its long-lost owner. On Wednesday, May 7, The Pulse published the only clues to Hairston’s story with a picture of the key and a picture of Carla from their senior prom in 1980, and excitement filled the air quickly.
An unsuspecting Carla Tenbrook was in a meeting in Mount Magazine when she received a text message from a friend saying that she was in the paper. By her noon lunch break, she had several friends texting her and one sent her a picture. At that point, she called LeAnn Dilbeck, Editor of The Pulse, to say that it was herself in the picture and her key that had been lost. Tenbrook stated that she was “shocked, totally shocked!”
By 10 p.m. the night the story broke, she and Hairston were on the phone making plans on how to return it. Hairston is planning a trip to his hometown very soon and would like to return it in person but decided to send it ahead, just in case.
On the day he mailed it, he contacted her to say it was sent and to be looking for it in the mail. After a couple of days, it still hadn’t arrived. Hairston had sent it as certified mail and it had to be signed for so he tracked the package. The tracking number showed it to be delivered but still, Carla had not seen it.
She decided to visit the local post office but had no luck. Thinking that maybe it had been delivered to her old address, she checked that mailbox, again with no luck. At this point they both began to wonder how, after all this time and effort, could it be lost again. Hairston began calling the post office and explained the situation, telling them it showed to be delivered to a post office box. The post office looked but couldn’t locate the package. Eventually, with persistence from Tenbrook and Hairston, the package was located in the back of the post office and Carla looked upon her lost, and lost again, class key after more than three decades.
“I couldn’t believe he had it after all this time,” said a very thankful Tenbrook. She admitted to not actually remembering losing it but is excited to have it found and returned.
Relieved to have the process completed, Hairston said he feels “absolutely wonderful.” It has given him a chance to return a treasured trinket and he also has had the chance to reconnect with old friends who read his story and have contacted him in the time since it was first printed. Hairston said he “couldn’t have done it without The Pulse,” and was thankful for the interest that his story received. Feeling a since of accomplishment Hairston stated, “that’s a big scratch off the ol’ bucket list.”