Donetia Hurt has tried to solve a mystery, and now she is asking for help from people in the Lima region.
At the center of this puzzle are two identical antique picture frames. One of them owns a spot in the family room of Douglas and Donetia’s home overlooking McClintock Lake in Shawnee Township. It is special to Donetia as it contains a portrait of the 79-year-old woman’s mother, Helen Sliemers, as well as her aunt, Kathlyn Sliemers. The portrait was done in 1916 by their sister, Mary Sliemers, who dabbled in photography as a hobby.
The second frame is where things get interesting and the mystery begins.
Several years ago one of her friends, Judi Phillips, was antique hunting on the back roads of Tennessee. She came upon a garage sale where a person could buy a box of goods for $1. As Phillips examined the boxes she was stunned by what she found at the bottom of one of them — a frame exactly like the one in Donetia’s home.
“Judi thought I might want the frame in case anything ever happened to ours,” Donetia said. “I am very careful with our family frame. Then when I saw the other frame and portrait, I knew in my heart that someone likely would be excited to recover part of their family history.”
Thus began Donetia’s mission to find that family.
As it turned out, the frame included another surprise. On the back of the portrait inside was a hand-written note. It read:
It was almost as if destiny decided to deliver the second frame to Donetia’s doorstep.
“To find out it once belonged to a family in Lima really took me back,” Donetia said.
With that clue in hand, she began looking for relatives of a Davis family who called Lima home in the 1920s. A hunch she had opened the door further.
“The frame and picture reminded me of somebody who worked at a drugstore. I went back looking for a Davis Drugstore in Lima, but the only thing I could locate was a Butler Drugstore.”
She had hit a dead end, or so she thought.
Soon she was in for her third surprise. It came when she began scouring the obituary pages of The Lima News.
“It turns out a Davis had married into the Butler family — the drugstore people,” Donetia said.
The pieces of the puzzle were coming together.
She found that Elsie Jane Davis was born July 29, 1924, and Charles Davis on May 9, 1924. Charles married Lowell Butler on Dec. 22, 1945.
She wonders if Elsie and Charles were the two children in the framed picture.
“The boy and girl in the picture looked to be the same age, that’s for sure,” Donetia noted. “And then looking at the pictures in the obituaries, I recognized similar facial features between Elsie Jane Davis Butler and one of the children in the portrait,” she said.
Now she is hoping someone from the Lima region can write the last chapter to this mystery.
Is the girl in the picture a young Elsie Jane Davis? And would that be her cousin, Charles, with her?
“This could be part of their family history. If so, I’d love for them to have the photo and frame,” Donetia said.
And what happens if a family member cannot by located? “At that point, Judi and I would donate it to the Allen County Museum.”
She’s not ready to take that step yet, though.
She asked The Lima News to hold the frame for her and to be the contact for anyone who may know more. In 46 years in the newspaper business, I’ve never received such a request. Then again, I’ve met few people like Donetia Hurt.
So here it goes: If you think you have information that would help get this frame and portrait into the living room of a rightful family member, give me a call at 567-242-0391.
ROSES AND THORNS: The chants of “here comes the judge” can be heard in the rose garden.
Rose:To Glenn Derryberry, who wrapped up a 33-year career with the Allen County Probate and Juvenile Courts on Friday, the last 13 years as a judge.
Rose: To Steve Schmidt, of Columbus Grove, who lifted a 370-pound block over his head to set a world’s record during the Mammoth Strength Challenge on Jan. 23.
Rose: Lima has been chosen as the test site for new technology that will advise motorists through their smartphones about trains blocking railroad crossings.
Rose: To Diane and Richard Walters, of Lima, who celebrated 60 years of marriage on Jan. 27.
Thorn: Due to COVID-19, the Lima Noon Optimists will not be able to hold its popular home show for the second straight year.
Thorn: With people spending more time in their homes due to COVID-19, the state is reporting booze sales increased by nearly 10 percent in 2020.
PARTING SHOT: There is nothing permanent except change.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.