A man who has been hit with a lot of bad news over the last four months got a little good news last week. Graham Zillwood, who lost just about everything he owned during November’s flooding, has recovered one item.
It’s a leather hat, which doesn’t seem like much when you consider that Zillwood lost his home, RV and so much more to the raging waters of the Coquihalla River.
It is just a hat. But it’s far more than just a hat.
“I bought it when I was 15, and it was my camping hat,” said Zillwood, who’s now 67. “I hadn’t worn it in years and years, but I always kept it. I started going out with my wife around the time I got it, and just being a teenager, the hat itself is no big deal but it brings back a lot of memories of those times.
“It was nice to find that memory because I’ve lost so many of them all of a sudden.”
Kami Moore is the person who found and returned the hat.
In the days and weeks that followed the flooding, she wanted to do something to help, but she didn’t know what. So she leashed up her dog, Sadie, and headed down to the Hope Golf Club to look for things that had been lost. She wandered up and down the banks of the Fraser and Coquihalla Rivers, poking through log piles.
“I looked over at a log pile that I hadn’t checked yet, went over and looked inside and I could see the edge of something leather,” Moore recalled. “I pulled it out and it was a cool hat. It made me smile to find something that was still whole. I brushed the sand off and said to myself, ‘I can’t wait to hear your story!’”
Moore took the hat home, dried it off and dusted away the sand and dirt.
Then she went on Facebook to try and find its owner.
“I happened to see a picture and thought, ‘That’s gotta be my hat. There can’t be two of those,’” he said.
Moore said she got a text from Zillwood saying he was on his way to pick it up, and minutes later they were talking on her doorstep.
“I gave the hat to him and told him the story of how I found it,” she said. “He looked at me and told me that he’d lost everything. He was happy to get a memory back and I was so happy to help.”
Zillwood marvels that the hat “looks the same as it did when it went in the river.”
“It’s a little smaller, so I guess it shrunk being in the water, but I’m not going to be wearing it anyways. it’s going to be hanging on a wall,” he said. “Once I have a wall to hang it on, that is.”
Zillwood is living in his daughter’s house in Rosedale where his four-year-old granddaughter has given him her bedroom to stay in. His land is gone. Insurance isn’t covering what he lost. He’s received a little assistance from Red Cross, but he doesn’t know if help will come from anywhere else.
“I don’t know where I’m going to be,” he said. “I can’t make any plans.”
At times it’s hard to not dwell on the things that are gone. His house and motorhome. A 28-foot travel trailer. Two boats. All gone without a trace.
And yet his hat survived.
“It’s tough because every once in a while I think, ‘Well I’ve got to grab this. Oh yeah, I can’t grab it because it’s not there any more,” he said. “It’s mostly the family things. My dad’s graduation pictures from 1946. My baby pictures from England, all of that is gone. When everything was happening, and I don’t know why, I ran in to grab my coffee cup. I should have grabbed jewelry or birth certificates or many other things but nope, my coffee cup. And it was empty too!”
Zillwood’s sense of humour is remarkable considering what he’s been through.
And yet, he can still joke.
“I had a leather satchel of marbles when I was in elementary school that I’ve kept all these years, and it’s in the river now,” he said. “So I’ve literally lost my marbles.
“Keeping a sense of humour is the only way to get through this. I don’t want to make myself ill worrying about stuff. I’ve always been kind of light-hearted that way and I don’t see the point in getting too down about things. I can’t change it, so I might as well go with it and just hope that something else comes out of it.”