That is how George Light described his feelings when he received a box packed with priceless family heirlooms sent to him from California.
Light, who lives in Illinois, is the great-nephew of Ellen Prince.
Prince, whose family was from Alpena back in the early 1900s, made headlines in March when a story about an effort to return her long-forgotten personal effects to relatives was being made.
After an exhaustive search, California resident K.C. Thompson struck gold and located Light and returned the family heirlooms to him.
In the process, it was decided Thompson keep Prince’s wedding dress which Prince wore in 1934, and Thompson wore again many decades later on her wedding day.
When news of the search for a relative of Prince’s spread, people from Alpena and beyond offered to help find Prince’s ancestors.
In no time, leads began to pop up and all the arrows pointed to Light.
Light said he was contacted in early April and told of Prince’s belongings and the tale about her wedding dress. He said he was taken aback with the story about how Prince’s dress fit Thompson perfectly and that she wore it when she took her own vows many years later.
Light said he noticed how far and wide the media coverage about Thompson, the dress, and the search for family had spread, and it shocked him that he was one of the people they were looking for.
Light said he is a private person and doesn’t always answer his phone. In this instance he did however, and after speaking to Thompson about Prince, he knew he needed to take the items that he says he now treasures.
“Two hours later, my mouth was still laying on the floor after hearing the story,” Light said. “It was very emotional for me to see pictures of my grandparents when they were younger.”
Little was known about Prince when Thompson began her quest to connect to her relatives and forward the chest full of heirlooms to them.
Light filled in some of the blanks of his great-aunt’s life, and what type of person she was. He said Prince was very committed to her profession as a teacher and extremely active in her church. She loved to wrap many presents big and small for her family during Christmas celebrations, which she loved to host.
“She was very eccentric, loved helping people, a happy person, and very entertaining,” he said.
Light said after Prince died, he and his father helped to clean out her house in California. He said somehow the chest of heirlooms was accidently left behind.
“We went through that whole house and my dad must have just missed the trunk,” Light said. “I know my dad had no idea it was there, because he wouldn’t have left it there.”
Thompson said her cousin Richard Payton, acquired the chest when people were working on the home. He then passed on to her. After trying on the wedding dress, and seeing how good of condition it was in, she decided to wear it when she got married.
After several conversations with Light, it was decided that Thompson would keep the wedding dress. Light said he doesn’t have an emotional connection to it the way she does and it belongs with her.
“When she asked if she could keep the dress, I was like ‘Thank God,’” Light said. “What am I going to do with an 80-year-old wedding dress? Obviously it was something Ellen treasured because she kept it all those years and there is a lot of emotional attachment to it for K.C. I just think it was appropriate that she kept it. I think my Aunt Ellen would have wanted her to keep it.”
Thompson said she had many people who helped her in her search for Prince’s kin. She said one person who was critical in finding Light was Jayna Huotari in Alpena.
She said when Huotari learned of the effort, she was able to come up with phone numbers of Ellen’s distant family, which eventually led her to Light.
Thompson said the hunt for someone related to Prince was important to her, and she was introduced to some amazing people during her search.
She said knowing Prince’s belongings are in the hands of a family member makes all of the hard work worth it.
“Ellen may not have been a blood relative of mine, but she is special to me, so getting these things to George was important,” she said. “It was fun to talk to George and learn more about Ellen, and the other people I came across during the search. It feels very rewarding.”
The future of the wedding dress is still up in the air, but Thompson said she has a few ideas in mind. She said the dress, which is nearly 100 years old, looks the same as when Ellen wore it in the 1930s, and when she wore it in 1989. However, she said, the material is beginning to give way, and someone trying to wear it would cause it to be damaged and ruined.
Because of that, Thompson hopes to have the dress displayed somewhere that was close to Ellen’s heart, such as Alpena.
“The most appropriate place would be a museum and have it on display,” Thompson said. “I want it to go to a place that Ellen had a connection to.”
Light said the items he received from Thompson will be passed on to someone in his family, because Ellen didn’t have any children or heirs.
A baby book and photos of Light’s Aunt Ellen and grandmother Betty were among the family heirlooms passed on to him from K.C. Thompson of California. Thompson was in possession of many of Ellen Prince’s personal items and wanted them returned to her family. A nationwide search was done, which led her to Light.
Some of the pictures George Light received were taken of Ellen in Alpena. This one was taken on the shore of Thunder Bay, in Alpena, Light said.
Ellen Prince was described as a free-spirit and eccentric by her great-nephew George Light. He said she loved helping people, a happy person, and very entertaining.
Photo by Liz G Photography
On Tuesday, K.C. Thompson unpacked her and Ellen Prince’s old wedding dress for the first time in more than 30 years. She was able to put on a section of the dress, but because it is nearly 100 years old, some of the material has weakened and she feared putting the entire fabric on it would tear. She is holding a picture of her and her husband Sam Thompson.
K.C. Thompson, of California, wore a wedding dress once worn by Alpena native Ellen Prince. Prince wore the dress when arrived in the 1930s, and Thompson in 1989, after her cousin found it in an abandoned chest full of Prince’s personal belongings.
George Light received love letters that were exchanged between his great-aunt Ellen Prince and her love interest John Landcaster. Light said he doesn’t intend to read the letters, because he knew Ellen and believes they were intended to be private.
Ellen Prince, of Alpena County, poses in her wedding dress in 1934 in this photo provided by K.C. Thompson, whose cousin, Rick Payton, found Prince’s wedding dress and other heirlooms in California.
George Light said his grandmother and grandfather stood up in Ellen and John Landcaster’s wedding. He said his grandparents were newlyweds at the time and the pictures have great sentimental value to him now.
Ellen Prince’s wedding dress she wore nearly a century ago, is now the possession of K.C. Thompson who lives in California. Thompson wore the dress for her own wedding, and has kept it safely packed away to make sure it is preserved.
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox