Archive for Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tonganoxie native happens upon family heirloom at store

January 19, 2005

A casual trip to a discount clothing store in Overland Park landed Angela Lenahan with the bargain of a lifetime.

Lenahan, a Tonganoxie native who lives in Lawrence, saw an advertisement for Stein Mart and decided to check out the store during a few days' vacation in November.

As Lenahan walked in the front door, she was unsure where the women's department was. Initially, she wandered into the men's department.

"I kept saying, 'These are funky clothes,'" Lenahan said.

Realizing she was in the wrong department, she walked toward the back of the store, in search of a main aisle.

Along the way, she saw an interesting display with a unique little suitcase -- one resembling a piece of luggage used by her mother, Jean Lenahan, who died three years ago. Angela's father, John Lenahan, operates Lenahan Hardware in downtown Tonganoxie.

Out of curiosity, she moved some sweaters away from the piece of luggage. And there she saw three monogrammed letters: "NJR."

Jean Lenahan's full maiden name was Neva Jean Roundtree.

"I kind of freaked out," Lenahan said. "After I got over the initial shock, I walked over and asked whether I could talk to somebody about purchasing it."

Lenahan talked to employees at the customer service counter about the suitcase, but the women said they couldn't help her.

The following week, she persevered and sent an e-mail to an address she found on Stein Mart's Web site, again asking if she could purchase the family heirloom. A few days later, the manager of the Overland Park store contacted Lenahan. And they struck a deal.

"They found it at a Goodwill store and found it for $5," Lenahan said. "He told me if I brought $5, I could have it."

Lenahan said the last time she had seen the suitcase was in the early 1990s. And it was around that time, she thought, that her mother got rid of the suitcase at an auction.

Finding the suitcase that her mother had years ago came as a complete surprise.

"I got more than I bargained for," Lenahan said.

The suitcase now is part of a display in Lenahan's home. The suitcase sits open, draped with some silk scarves that Jean Lenahan once owned. An old hand fan also is in the display, along with other items positioned in the suitcase, which sits atop a dresser that's been in the Lenahan family for more than 100 years.

"It's my attempt at Martha Stewart," Lenahan said.

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