Owner seeks to reunite photos with families
KENOSHA Dressed in their finest, the brides and grooms appear in photo after photo on what presumably was the happiest day of their lives. It's those kinds of pleasant memories that the owners of a Kenosha business want to rekindle for hundreds of families by reuniting them with old photos at no charge.
When Chris Morey bought the building that held the former Sterelczyk photography studio at 6928 Sheridan Road about a year ago, he wanted it to serve as the location for his companies — Ability Independence LLC, an accessible design firm, and his new enterprise, Ability Home Medical supplies.
But then came the discovery of the photos — thousands upon thousands of photos — stuffed in envelopes, crammed into endless file cabinets, drawers, boxes and garbage bags in the basement and first floor.
"Originally I was going to just throw all this stuff away, but I started thinking that it may not be worth anything to me but it's worth a lot to some people," Morey told the Kenosha News.
Reuniting the old photos with their families has been an interesting task, said Morey's sister Glenda Morey.
She has spent the last few months organizing the thousands of envelopes, each of which holds about 10 "proof" photos and their corresponding negatives.
Information from the envelopes and photo logs was put into a laptop spreadsheet, and Glenda has reshuffled them all from being filed by date to being filed by name.
The Moreys estimate there are photo sets from nearly 1,400 weddings taken between 1980 and 2006. "There are also three weddings from the '70s," Glenda said.
The work has almost taken on a forensic quality, as she matches up the right negatives and photos.
"I found a girlfriend of mine — her wedding (photos were) in about four different places," she said, riffling through the envelopes. "That's when I do the happy dance, when I find negatives that actually match the right envelope."
In addition, she's come across about four dozen sets of images from birthday parties, quinceañeras and anniversaries parties.
Glenda thinks the files were purged of most of the pre-1980 photos.
"The ultimate (goal) is to give them back to people who contracted for them," she said, adding that the photos are legally considered abandoned property. "We aren't selling them; we're not trying to make a profit off them at all."
For Glenda, the drive to return the photos is personal: She was a teenager when her family home had a house fire.
"We know what it's like to lose stuff like this," she said.