Wednesday, August 3, 2016

That Darn Suitcase

I wish I could say that I found a follow-up newspaper article about that mysterious suitcase that was found in Sheffield Lake back in late June 1941. But despite combing through the Lorain Journals in the weeks that followed all the way up to July 25, I didn’t come up with anything. I guess it's because no apparent crime had been committed, and consequently it wasn't practical to assign a detective to it.
I did receive some interesting emails from some of my regular contributors, though, who were fascinated enough with the whole thing to research it a bit and come up with some pretty good observations and theories.
Rick Kurish wrote, “Who doesn't love a good mystery? However, without finding follow-up information in the newspapers of that time, your odds are pretty small of identifying Donald McQuarrie. The suitcase contained enough documents that the local constabulary could certainly have tracked him down – if they wanted to. They were probably more concerned with whether a violent crime had occurred.”
Rick did note, however, “Even without any details from the documents found in the suitcase it is possible to arrive at some conclusions.
“Both his draft registration card and CCC discharge papers would bracket his age. The first peacetime draft registration was enacted on September 16, 1940. It required all men between the ages of 21 and 35 to register with their local draft board. Since the law was enacted less than a year before the suitcase was found, that helps narrow his age range. Also his CCC discharge tells us a few things. The CCC was organized in 1933 and to join you had to be in good health, be unemployed, be a U.S. citizen, and be between the ages of 18 to 26 years old. Enlistments lasted for six months, but many men reenlisted several times. Based on the above facts, Donald McQuarrie was probably in his middle 20s in 1941.
“An educated guess, based on seaman's papers found in the suitcase and addresses in Detroit and Buffalo might mean that after he left the CCC he was employed as a hand on a ship operating on Lake Erie, or maybe the Great Lakes.
“The address in Tewksbury, Massachusetts – since it was outside the Lake Erie area of the rest of the papers – was possibly his original home address. Since he had a Social Security card, I accessed the death index looking for any Donald McQuarrie born pre-1920. I found only one person who seemed to fit that criteria: a Donald G. McQuarrie who was born September 10, 1914 (making him 26 years old when the suitcase was found) and who died June 12, 2002 in Massachusetts.
“Was it him? Who knows? Certainly an extreme long shot, but fun to speculate about."
Dennis Thompson also weighed in after utilizing one of the online archival newspaper websites.
“What an interesting mystery!” he wrote. "A search for the whole name in the Chronicle and the Plain Dealer didn't turn up anything. Just the last name has many hits because it’s shared by more famous people.”

That’s for sure. There are a lot of Donald McQuarries, judging by all of the online references to them.
Dennis later updated me on his search. “OK, I checked the Death Index," he noted. "Nothing for that last name in 1941 +/- 5 years in Ohio. I'll try some other websites. I have had very inconsistent results from the Index. I wonder if the Plain Dealer has an obituary index? Or the Journal for that matter? I know the Chronicle does. It is alphabetized for each year, not too hard when you have an approximate date. On the shelves in the Elyria Main Library history room.
"As I reread your article, I note the police had his Social Security number. I wonder if the LPD has a cold case unit that you could get interested? They have direct access to such stuff. Draft registration cards are available for WWI, but I'm not sure about WWII, it might be too recent.
Like Rick, Dennis had his eye on one particular Donald McQuarrie. This one lived in Somerset, Maine and would have been around nineteen at the time the suitcase was discovered.

I also found a couple of Donald McQuarries who I initially thought might be him. One was a member of a McQuarrie family who lived less than five miles from Tewksbury; the other had the correct middle initial and everything – and even served in the Navy! But both of these gentlemen were too young in 1941 to serve (unless the Navy was accepting 10-yr-olds back then).

Oh well.

I sincerely appreciate the help from Rick and Dennis. If I can find the time, I'll go back and hit the microfilm one last time. 

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