BELFAIR, Wash. – Their rendezvous at the Airport Diner was planned, but Brittany Nave had never met the man to whom she was returning a piece of history.
Gazing around the diner, she spotted an older man with combed-back silver hair. When she approached, he told her he was “looking for someone with information for him.”
“Like this?” she asked, handing him a small leather book with gold-leaf-bordered pages.
Gordon Lecair knew the handwriting inside, because it was his own. The book is a diary of his experiences in the Army from 1943, and Nave had found it in a Bellingham antique shop.
“I’m glad to have it,” Lecair said.
How did it get to Bellingham? No one knows for sure, the Kitsap Sun reported.
Lecair, a 1942 graduate of Bremerton High School – where he once helped the elder Bill Gates run for student body president – had enlisted in the Army and served on New Guinea and in the Philippines. He ran an engineering firm in downtown Seattle after the war for decades, before retiring to the serene shores of Hood Canal in the 1980s.
Nave, a Bellingham resident and history buff, went with her grandmother, Betty Nave, of Poulsbo, to Penny Lane Antiques in early December. On a shelf she found the leather-bound journal, with embossed gold lettering on the cover that said “My life in the service.”
It was typical during those war years for service members to keep diaries, a practice encouraged by the government to document a remarkable period of conflict.
She knew the diary was important.
“Antiquers kind of have that sixth sense,” she said.
She paid $10 for it, then set out to find its owner or, at minimum, a place it could be preserved. She found an obituary for Lecair’s wife, Cleo, dated 2010; that confirmed that Gordon lived in Belfair. She went to the Kitsap Sun’s Facebook page and asked if anyone knew him.
Local residents Joseph McNeal and Elizabeth Case saw her post and were able to find a former neighbor who knew how to contact Lecair.
A meeting was arranged for just before Christmas, while Nave was visiting her grandmother in Poulsbo.
The diary is a day-by-day account of Lecair’s service – where he lived, what his duties were, even when he got his shots. Inspiring quotes fill its margins; it opens with a picture of President Franklin Roosevelt and closes with one of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Lecair said he thinks often of his high school classmates and those who served during the war – particularly those who didn’t make it back. He said three members of the Bremerton High School class of 1942 died in the war.
“That bothers me to no end,” he said of those who died.
Still, he is thankful he got his journal back.
“It was very nice of them,” he said. “They were very courteous.”