For Lynne Brady, it was just an ordinary day of beachcombing on Lake Erie in early April 2019. She had made her way out with her friend, Sandy, to Perkins Beach in Cleveland to look for glass and the occasional gem, as she did about six times a year at this particular locale. It was an uneventful day, until she discovered something much rarer than a piece of red beach glass: a ring of keys connected to a set of dog tags!
After marveling at the find, Lynne immediately set out to find the owner of the keys and tags, which named him as Steve Romoga. Figuring by their wear and tear that the tags were from the mid-20th century, Lynne searched online for the name and started sorting through all the Steve Romogas of the world. Thus began a months-long journey of searching for a phone number, leaving a message, getting no response, and returning to search some more.
After four months of no responses—during which Lynne and her husband Larry worked on a future trip to visit Montgomery, Texas—Lynne finally struck gold. The sister-in-law of a veteran named Steve Romoga returned Lynne’s call and gave her a phone number to call. Another couple of months passed and then she received a call from Steve’s stepson Len Vogel, who was in, of all places, Texas. Once Lynne realized the family’s house was on the way to Montgomery, she knew what she wanted to do.
Two months later, Lynne and Larry found themselves knocking on the door of a complete stranger and his family. They weren’t strangers for long though, and they finally learned the story of Steve Romoga. Steve was a veteran of the Korean War, from 1951 to 1956, after which he moved to Cleveland, where he enjoyed fishing at Edgewater Park. It was then that he lost his car keys and dog tags.
After marrying Len’s mother, the family moved to Texas, but Steve guesses that his tags had been lost since 1960. Understandably, he was hesitant about receiving a call so many decades later, but his family was so excited to bring him something of his past that they hadn’t been able to resist returning Lynne’s call.
After spending a few hours at their house and then out at dinner, the Bradys and the Romoga family exchanged numbers and parted ways, but not before Lynne and Steve became friends on Facebook. What started as just another day at the beach became a journey to the past and a new friendship made for the future.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2020 issue.