By Garth Snow
Laura Freeland Kraynik remembers two constants about her late father. She remembers that Paul Freeland seemed always to be busy. She also remembers a gold mariner’s cross that the Navy veteran wore for as long as anyone can remember.
She remembers growing up, and understanding why parents seem always to be busy. She remembers a tearful conversation in which her father promised the pendant to her.
Kraynik, who lives between Fort Wayne and Roanoke, accepted that pendant from her mother after Freeland died in December. Kraynik wore the keepsake fondly. And then it was gone. Now she harbors the sadness of a second loss. She feels certain that someone found the pendant and that it’s now taking up space in a car console or a junk drawer. She wonders why anyone would keep an object that has no deeper meaning to the finder, but which embodies a parent and a relationship to her.
Kraynik traces the loss to a frigid Jan. 19, when she wore layers of winter clothing as she entered the Kroger Marketplace on Coventry Lane in southwest Fort Wayne.
“I was running into Kroger and I remember feeling like something fell inside of my sweater,” she recalled. She was wearing not only a sweater but a winter coat and a scarf and another necklace, and she didn’t hear the pendant fall. A few minutes later, at Salsa Grille, when she took off the scarf, the chain from the pendant fell. She and her husband, Larry, ran back to Kroger, she said, but the pendant was gone.
She reported the loss to the Kroger courtesy desk, in case anyone should find the pendant and leave it at the desk. The store had no comment for this article.
She filed a report with the Fort Wayne Police Department. Detective John Lyon confirmed that the department has the report and that police picked up a DVD from a store camera. Lyon sent Kraynik’s photo of the missing pendant to about 50 “pawnshops and jewelry stores, secondhand stores — anybody that would take in stuff off the street.”
Lyon said if anyone attempts to sell the pendant, police would forward the case to the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office for possible prosecution. “That’s obviously up to the Prosecutor’s Office,” he said. “We don’t operate on finders keepers.”
While waiting for good news from those sources, Kraynik has taken her campaign to Facebook, where her story was shared 668 times in the first week. She has made fliers with her phone number and a photo of the pendant, and has posted those about the Coventry area.
Finally, she took time to reflect on the last several frantic, sorrowful and bittersweet weeks.
Her father, whose health was failing, had asked Kraynik’s daughter to move up her wedding so that he could attend. But Freeland died Dec. 8, and McKenna was married Dec. 23.
Kraynik’s mother, Joanne, came to stay with Kraynik for a while after Freeland’s funeral, then returned to her home in Schererville.
Then, on Jan. 8, Kraynik’s house caught fire. Everyone escaped. The pendant was safe. But Kraynik, her youngest five daughters, her husband and three dogs would spend the next three weeks in a southwest Fort Wayne motel. Three weeks and counting.
Freeland was a civic figure known throughout northwest Indiana. He served 12 years on the Lake Central School Board, served on the board of Campagna Academy — formerly Hoosier Boys Town. For 32 years, he was a teacher or principal in the Gary Public Schools.
“When I was growing up … a young girl, my dad was not always available,” she said. “He was working with the Lions Club, the eye bank, Boys Town, the school board, working in Gary, working the football games, or doing this or that, always working for others. And he was always working odd jobs because being a schoolteacher and having a family you’re broke. So he wasn’t always available to me growing up, and I remember a lot of bitter feeling toward him. And it took my becoming an adult to appreciate [what he did].”
She remembers his tiger’s eye ring, which has been lost. She remembers a plaid, tan shirt, which has been lost. She remembers that pendant. She assumes he wore it because he was a Navy corpsman serving with the Marines in Korea. He never told her about it. “My parents have been married for 52 years and my mom doesn’t remember him not having it,” she said. “It was a gold crucifix that had an anchor, and it has a captain’s wheel behind Jesus, probably about an inch and a half from top to bottom.”
“I have a compass tattooed on my arm and I have a very small anchor tattooed on my arm,” she said. “My dad was very opposed to tattoos and I got this when he first started getting sick. It’s a comfort to me. And it took me a long time to show him and I almost didn’t show him. And probably the time before last that I saw him was in the summer and I said, ‘Dad, I want to show you something.’
“He said, ‘That means so much to me.’ So he knew. So when I saw him at Thanksgiving is when he tried to give it to me and he said, ‘I want you to take this home.’ And I said no, because Mom was so visibly getting upset because she knew what it means when people start giving things away. I looked at my dad and I said, ‘I look forward to seeing you wear this for many more years’ and I said, ‘Dad, I’ll take it when you’re done with it.’ “
Less than two months later, the pendant had come into her possession and then into the possession of a nameless stranger.
“I guess what upsets me most is the person who has it, it doesn’t mean anything to them,” she said.
To her, though, it’s priceless.
Kraynik asked anyone who has information about the pendant to contact her at (260) 402-6608.
“Give it back to me,” she said. “I don’t even care if he doesn’t want to meet me. Take it to Kroger. Call me and tell me you’re taking it somewhere. I won’t even prosecute. I just want it back.”