Whalley resident Nathanael Powell holds a 113-year old christening gown, worn by 59 people since 1907, which was stolen from his front porch in Whalley after a FedEx delivery. It has since been returned. (Submitted photo)

Mountie returns Surrey family’s 113-year-old christening gown after it was stolen from porch

The 113-year old christening gown, worn by 59 people since 1907, was stolen from a front porch in Whalley after a FedEx delivery

A fresh new chapter in the storied saga of a 113-year-old white lace christening gown has a cheerful ending thanks to the tenacity of a Surrey Mountie who returned the stolen heirloom late Saturday night to a grateful Whalley family.

Nathanael Powell, 34, said his great aunt in Newfoundland had been the “keeper of the dress” and would actually travel with it when duty called, but unfortunately she passed away a couple of years ago. With Powell’s son James, who is almost two months old, set to be christened on Aug. 9, Powell’s dad’s cousin sent it to him by FedEx from Ontario.

The gown was originally worn by Powell’s great grandmother in 1907, in Newfoundland.

“It was created for her. It’s been worn subsequently by all of her children, and all of her children’s children, and now even the next generation, with my kids. To date, 59 people have been christened or baptized in it.

“It arrived on Thursday but I didn’t know at the time that it had arrived. Somebody stole it,” Powell explained. “She contacted me on Friday to say, ‘Hey, did you get it?’”

Powell said he asked a neighbour if he’d seen the package. The neighbour checked his surveillance camera footage, which captured the delivery and theft.

The footage revealed the package had been stolen 20 minutes after it was delivered to Powell’s front porch, by a thief who was wearing a reflective vest, carrying a clipboard, and had pulled up Powell’s in a van.

“I checked my own camera and I actually got a decent picture of the guy and the car and the whole scene, so I called police and a constable came out,” Powell said.

“This would have been on Saturday, so the theft was Thursday. I didn’t realize it until Friday night but Saturday morning the police came out. I want to give a ‘shout out’ to the Surrey RCMP because this constable is fantastic. Very sympathetic.”

Constable Brenden Vogt, the hero of this story, said he found the package ditched inside a forest, about 20 feet off the roadway.

“I found this FedEx box, it didn’t look too, too beat up,” he said. “Holy cow, I looked inside the box and lo-and-behold, the dress was still inside.”

Vogt’s safari didn’t scratch him up too badly. He said he had to give his boots “a nice little polish” before his next shift, “and that’s about it.”

The Surrey Mountie had already drawn local praise in 2019 headlines after he pulled over in his patrol car to shoot some impromptu hoops with neighbourhood kids who were playing basketball near Bear Creek Park.

READ ALSO: Father thanks B.C. Mountie for shooting hoops with kids, ‘changing perspectives’

Corporal Elenore Sturko noted that Vogt “spent a lot of time” on the stolen gown file, “actually, extra time.

“It was past his shift and he was still looking through the bushes because he wanted to try to find it for the family. He was determined to find the dumped package and so he went through the bushes on Old Yale, west of 128. And not long after that, he returned it to the family.”

Powell praised the constable’s effort.

“It sounds like a bit of a wild goose chase,” he said.

“We ended up posting to Facebook, hoping that somebody in the city would see it or know something. I guess a fellow who works at an impound lot recognized the van that got pulled in there. So that info was given to police, and he was able to follow that lead and at 10 p.m. he came back to our house and had the gown in hand.

“There was a caterpillar on it, and a couple of leaves in the box. I think it must have been tossed out. A bit of minor cleaning, my mom’s going to take care of that.”

Powell said the precious gown was “literally down the street’ from his place.

“I guess the guy realized it’s not worth anything, you know, any money, and he must have tossed it out the window or something.

“We’re just thrilled,” he said. “This is a great piece of family history that maybe I took for granted before, but man, like I’m going to be so pleased to have him wear it on his baptism.

“Maybe this will be kept in a family safe or something for now.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

surrey rcmp

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SLIDESHOW: Chilliwack firefighters battle large blaze at Rosedale chicken barn Friday

Birds were saved but the buildings on Castleman Road were destroyed by fire

Plainclothes Abbotsford police officer deletes cellphone video after drawing gun on innocent man

‘They never asked me what I was doing there, strictly came out with guns, threatening to shoot me’

Chilliwack Fair kicks off tonight with local talent

Todd Richard and Appaloosa to hit the stage for drive-in concert at fairgrounds

VIDEO: Chilliwack chicken barn destroyed by fire

Chickens saved from blaze as firefighters work to control large fire

50-year-old time capsule unsealed at Abbotsford International Airport

Capsule sealed by former PM Pierre E. Trudeau in 1970, when event became ‘Canada’s National Airshow’

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

UPDATE: Police have Maple Ridge hotel locked down

A large contingent of Mounties are at the Art Infiniti Hotel on Lougheed Highway

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

PHOTOS: Moving day for 110-year-old Fraser Valley heritage house

Chilliwack heritage house makes 1.7-kilometre journey to new location

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for Aug. 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Most Read