NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A curious woman from Harlem recently stumbled upon a piece of history and refused to let it be thrown away.
Rosa Howell is in her glory, feeling like she just found gold — Army green gold.
While paying her storage bill earlier this month, an old metal suitcase sitting inside the facility caught her eye. A few days later, she saw the same suitcase outside in the trash can on the corner of 124th Street and Broadway.
“So I open it up and I see all of this green,” she told CBS2’s Jessica Layton. “I said, oh my.”
The uniform was similar to the one her late husband once wore. This was treasure that had to come home.
“I said, I can’t just leave it,” Howell said. “I took everything out of the suitcase and I put it in my shopping cart … I told my daughter, I found some Army stuff. She said, Mom, you need to stop picking up stuff!”
There were Army jackets and pants, long johns, an Army hat and gold buttons that she believes would have been worn by a corporal, possibly during World War II.
“He defended us. That has to mean something,” Howell said.
There were receipts and old menus from restaurants in the Poconos, and there was a name tag — Manuel Cohen.
His address at some point was Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. Records show he and his wife eventually moved to Florida, but they’ve both passed away.
Howell isn’t sure Cohen’s relatives even knew he had belongings in storage or that they were about to be hauled away with the trash. Now she’s making it her mission to find them and get everything back to them.
“That man, he had a family,” she said. “He lived here. He was a person. He was a human being.”
Howell says if Cohen’s family sees this story, she wants them to know, “I appreciate him.”
Until she can connect with those loved ones, she’s honored to tell this story that was in a suitcase while holding a piece of his history.
As for why the clothing and memorabilia would be in the trash? Howell figures everything had been sitting in storage and nobody came to claim the items or pay the bill.