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A Virginia school district is returning a woman’s wallet almost 70 years after she lost it in her high school gym

A Virginia school district was able to track down a former student to let her know that they had found her lost wallet, almost 70 years after it went missing.

A contractor found the wallet in some ductwork in the rubble of the old Poquoson Middle School gym, which was torn down as part of a multimillion-dollar school renovation project.

The wallet was in pretty bad shape, but it held a few clues that helped school officials track down the original owner — Ester French, who’d gone to nursing school, gotten married, changed her name, and has lived in Connecticut since 1957.

“When I heard about it I couldn’t believe it,” French, 85, told CNN.

Inside were two faded pictures, Christmas stamps from 1951, a calendar from that year, and 85 cents in silver coins, a school official told CNN affiliate WTKR. There was also a little blue address book and a yellowed newspaper clipping asking readers to pray for the Navy sailors serving in the Korean War.

She says she doesn’t remember why she saved that particular article, but there are a lot of Navy bases near Poquoson in southeastern Virginia.

“I’m not sure why I had that,” she said. “Maybe when I see it, I will know. Hey, we’re talking about a lot of years, you know?”

French remembers putting the wallet on a ledge in the gym and realizing that it had fallen down a hole that went deep down in the brick building.

“There was nothing to do about it when I lost it,” she said. “I perhaps reported it at the time, but I knew that I couldn’t get it and I was feeling bad about it at the time.”

French said she probably earned the money working Saturdays at a dime store or doing odd jobs at her neighbor’s farm.

She said she lost the wallet during the 1951-52 school year when she was 16 or 17. The school was the high school at the time.

Poquoson City Public Schools Superintendent Arty Tillett told CNN that it took some digging to find French, but they found a relative who still lives in the area.

“This is a small town with a lot of deep roots,” Tillett added.

Tillett said they had a nice chat about her time at the school when he called to tell her about the find. He said they are going to send it to her.

French said it has brought back fond memories of her high school days, and she’s gotten calls from a cousin and a classmate, who got back in touch after hearing the story.

Her children and grandchildren are also looking forward to seeing the wallet.

“It was absolutely shocking. It was a surprise and we’ve had a lot of laughs about it,” she said.

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