John Worrell and his wife, Diane, comb their beach on Lake Erie at least once a week to clean up the clutter that washes ashore. But one afternoon this July they found treasure among the trash.
The Worrells hail from Markham, Ont., where “it’s totally beat into you that you must recycle,” joked Diane, so they’re used to cleaning up the various plastic bottles that end up on their sandy stretch in Amherstburg, Ont. — but this one was different.
“It was green and faded and beat up with no label on it,” said Diane.
‘My name is William Shuford (Billy), age 12 and I’d like for you to get in touch with me.’
– Message in a bottle
Like a good recycler, John tried to take the top off, but but it was stuck tight. When he looked a little closer he noticed a faded note stashed inside, so he grabbed a pair of scissors and snipped the bottle off at the neck.
As they read the carefully written message, the couple were overcome with curiosity.
My name is William Shuford (Billy), age 12 and I’d like for you to get in touch with me. My phone # is (313)-892-2399. Address [scratched out]. Please respond! Detroit, Michigan 48203
“How old is this?” Diane recalled thinking. “It was so sweet, you know, a 12-year-old boy … ‘Where’s the date? Is it three years old or 30?’ That’s the first thing that went through my mind.”
John’s first thoughts were a little different.
“I looked at it and said, ‘We should get in touch with this person and make their day.'”
The couple called the number, but it had been disconnected. A reverse number search found it had last belonged to someone named William S., but the trail seemed to end there.
The note sat in the Worrell’s house for about a week before John decided he had to do something. So he called the Detroit Free Press and asked reporter…