MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — For a piece of paper smaller than a business card, a recently discovered note has left a lasting impact on those who found it, as well as a daughter of the man who wrote and hid the note himself.
Last week, after closing West Central Wine on Central Avenue, co-owner Mel Kutzera and some “late-night downtowners” visited the basement area of the establishment. While down there, Sam Ertle, who managers a downtown bar, noticed that a piece of the wall was loose, so he pulled out the broken brick.
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In the small cavity left behind, he discovered a tightly rolled paper stuck inside some hardware, what Kutzera called “a tiny time capsule.”
It was too dark to read the note in the basement, so Kutzera put it back. A few days later, she retrieved the note and took it upstairs to the bar area. She discovered the note was left in the basement nearly 60 years ago.
Hand-written in pencil, it read: "Placed here by C.D. Craft, May 27, 1958."
Then, with the aid of an old-fashioned investigative tool — a Middletown City Directory — and the internet, Kutzera and her business partner, Monica Nenni, connected the note to Craft’s family.
In 1958, C.D. Craft, then a 17-year-old Middletown High School student, was a stock boy at S.S. Kresge. He worked in the basement and his girlfriend, Laura Sue Ely, worked upstairs at the candy counter. Occasionally, Ely used a dumbwaiter to send Craft his favorite candy.
Craft graduated from Middletown High School in 1958, then entered the U.S. Army. During leave, he married Ely on May 22, 1959, one year after leaving the note. He died in 1986, and his wife died in 2010.
After looking in the city directory, Kutzera and Nenni discovered C.D. Craft was a rigger at Armco and lived in Middletown. They posted a message on Facebook and asked if anyone knew a Clarence Craft. They learned that Craft was a member of a popular band called Sagebrush that played at LeSourdsville Lake and was a disc jockey every Saturday on WPFB radio in Middletown.
Then they made contact with one of Craft’s two daughters, Casey White, who lives in Vandalia. They sent her a picture of the note, and she instantly recognized her father’s handwriting.
At first, White was reluctant to answer the Facebook message. When told by Kutzera that she had something to show White, her mind wandered. Did her father leave someone $1 million? Was Kutzera some long-lost relative?
White, 56, said the note came at “an important time” in her life. She is having complications from a recent surgery, so she’s unable to help her family move from Vandalia to Englewood.
“I was pretty low when I got that message,” she said during a phone interview from her home.
When White realized the note was written by her father, who died at age 45, she burst into tears. She called it “the ugliest cry of the century.”
The note, she said, was “a message from heaven, a message from my father. That was so clear. My spirits were really lifted.”
She paused, then added: “It was like my dad was talking to me.”
Her sister, Lori Cresong, 54, lives in Medway, and her brother, Christopher, died three years ago.
Kutzera believes there is more meaning to the message than just a few words.
“He had no idea that one day there would be a mall, then there wouldn’t be a mall,” she said of the failed City Centre Mall. “But he had the hope of his hometown. He knew somebody would find this note.”
It’s amazing, Kutzera said, that even after several downtown buildings were demolished, the basement wall and the note were spared.
“Having hope in the future is critical to the survival of the town,” Kutzera said.
Nenni added: “We can draw parallels from when the note was left to today. Back then, things were booming down here, and we’re coming back to that time. We are seeing a revival. (The note) had to come to us for a reason.”
Now, Kutzera said, it’s time for her to write a note and place it back in the cavity.