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Ohio school finds lost purse from 1957 wedged behind school locker

NORTH CANTON, Ohio – A dirty, faded red purse from the 1950s was found stuck behind a school locker in Ohio – more than 60 years after it was lost. 

The clutch’s contents revealed that the purse belonged to Patti Rumfola, who lost her purse in 1957 as a teenager attending Hoover High School.

The school was built in 1956, but now the building serves as the district’s middle school, North Canton Middle School.

Communications Director Polly Doyle said a custodian found the purse in May 2019 “wedged” behind a piece of metal that detached from the school locker while he was repairing it.

After taking it to the office, the custodian and a few secretaries took a peek inside. They found photos, library cards and even a membership card to the YMCA all belonging to Rumfola from when the school first opened.

Doyle then contacted the North Canton Alumni Association with the hope of returning the purse to its rightful owner. The association determined that Rumfola graduated in 1960.

Online records and an obituary show Patricia (Rumfola) Michele died in 2013 at the age of 71 in her hometown of DuBois, Pennsylvania. According to the obituary, she became a teacher in Maryland and retired “after many years of service.”

Patti Rumfola

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She was also a costume designer and seamstress for a theater in DuBois and founded a Theatre Arts Guild and Young Women’s Club in Punxsutawney. She was preceded in death by her husband, John, and was survived by five children, all of whom reside in Maryland.

Marilyn Riehl, one of her closest friends, told North Canton City Schools that Patti never mentioned losing a purse but said that she would use the clutch for special occasions. 

“One of the sweetest girls I’ve ever know,” Sally Krum Roden, another classmate, told the school district in a press release. “Everyone loved her. She had a beautiful character.”

The contents of Patti Rumfola's lost purse.

The school district was able to locate the family and return the purse, according to a post on their Facebook page. They opened it during a family gathering in the fall.

The school district shared photos of the purse’s contents, which included photos, schedules and wheat pennies that all five children kept as a token of remembrance of their mom.

“I cannot THANK YOU enough,” Rumfola’s daughter Stephanie wrote back to the school. “We agreed that Mom would have been SO excited if she could see all of this. Would have made her smile so hard to know this has been found and reminisce about a day in the life of her old self.” 

Follow Kelly Byer and Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @kbyerREP and @AdriannaUSAT. 

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