Local

Woman forgets bag, loses decades of memories

Peggy Wyatt at 70, a widow on a fixed income, stopped at the Hobby Lobby store Dec. 6 to buy plastic flowers for relatives' graves. Like she always does for somebody else, Wyatt found the money.

She spent $30.21.

Her car keys were just inside the top of her purse. The purse was in the spot on the shopping cart in front of the handlebar that you hold to push the cart. Wyatt grabbed the keys and the flowers and took the flowers to the car.

Realizing she forgot her purse, Wyatt rushed back to the store as fast as a 70-year-old widow with great-grandchildren can rush.

"My pocketbook," she recalled saying to herself. "It was gone, that quick."

The purse was black. She gave the value for the police report as $10.

But inside that larger purse, her "pocketbook," was what she described as "a clutch purse."

Inside was $250 that Wyatt had scraped together to buy gifts for others. Gift cards she already bought for her three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her credit cards, department store cards.

Her cell phone for emergencies was gone. Her Medicare card. Her driver's license. Her checkbook. And a Seiko watch she once had bought for herself, saving the money about $5 at a time until she had the $365 that watch cost.

Plus, a couple dollars she had tucked away to get a new watch battery.

Pictures of family. Mementos of decades.

Her glasses.

Store employees immediately tried to help, but to no avail. A Rock Hill Police Department officer named Kelly Schifferle, who took the report, went the extra mile to search garbage cans around the building and around the parking lots.

Nothing.

Wyatt lived most of her life in tiny Smyrna, the smallest town in the state on the western edge of York County. She did hair forever until retiring, running the Smyrna Beauty Shop. After dealing with the police -- a new experience -- she called her daughter-in-law, Roxie Dover.

"She was upset, and crying, so I went right to the bank and had a stop put on her account, then took care of all the cards," Dover said. "This devastated her. This is a lady who thinks of others first. The only reason she was over there was to buy flowers for the grave sites."

The manager at the store, Brian Harris, said the incident was the first of its kind at the store in the eight months it has been open, and the first in his five years with the company in other states, too. Store officials notified the corporate office and helped police, he said.

Rock Hill Police Lt. Jerry Waldrop, more than 30 years in this business of purses gone, also said there have been no other problems at the store.

But the purse of a 70-year-old widow has not been found, Waldrop said. Nor have the contents.

The best way to avoid a problem at any store or parking lot is to keep a hold on personal items at all times, Waldrop said.

"Never walk away and leave anything sitting in the cart," Waldrop said. "Something could be gone in seconds."

In the days since the purse was snatched, what can be replaced has been. The driver's license, and more.

But all Wyatt cares about, even with Christmas looming like a freight train rushing through a dark tunnel, is what can't be replaced.

"I want those pictures of my family," said Peggy Joanne Wyatt -- the 70-year-old widow, who has no glasses, living on a fixed income.

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