“I just don’t know how those items got across the country,” Sherri Thomas told Nexstar’s KTXL. “I was shocked.”
Thomas became aware of the photos after KTXL published the story of a man who fell on hard times and lived in an RV that had the photos and other documents inside when he purchased it.
The man, Juan Garcia, reached out to KTXL after selling the RV in an effort to help get the belongings back to their rightful owner.
Thomas got in touch with KTXL and shared more details about the man seen in the photos and named in the documents, and she said she is hoping to take possession of her ex-husband’s belongings.
Photo album, other documents found in an RV
Juan Garcia of Stockton lost two family members to COVID-19 and ended up unhoused during the pandemic.
He purchased a used RV in Manteca for several hundred dollars and was surprised when he found the collection of images and documents that show a man from his childhood years into his career as a police officer.
“I hate for it to get lost, these are pretty old pictures,” Garcia said. “It looks like they mean something to somebody.”
The photos show the man at different points in his life, including as a child, as a member of a bowling team, and wearing a police uniform.
Among the documents are a police academy certificate from the Des Moines Police Department from 1951 and a newspaper clipping of the academy graduation.
Thomas confirmed the man in the photos is Lewis Brundige, whom she was married to for five years beginning in 1975. Brundige was Thomas’ second husband and she had a different legal name at the time of their marriage.
“He was a man to be respected,” Thomas said. “He was a good police officer, he was a good husband and a good father.”
Thomas also shared other images of Brundige, such as a photo of him as a rookie police officer in 1963.
More details discovered about the man in the photos
After KTXL published the story about the photos found in the RV, followers of KTXL’s sister station WHO in Des Moines, Iowa commented on Facebook with links and information about Brundige.
According to an online obituary, Brundige died at 64 years old in May 1998 after battling cancer for several years. Thomas said he died from stomach cancer and is buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Des Moines.
The Des Moines Police Department also caught word of the photos and documents, telling KTXL that Brundige was hired in 1963 and was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Police said Brundige was promoted to sergeant in 1970 and retired in 1989.
Brundige was a great bowler, Thomas explained, adding that they were in a bowling league together.
Brundige had two children from another relationship, a son and a daughter. His son, Lewis Brundige III, died at 56 years old in June 2019.
According to the son’s obituary, the older Brundige is survived by his daughter, Kim Miller, who Thomas does not have any contact with.
Ex-wife appreciates the man who cared for the photos
Thomas said that she admires Garcia for holding on to her ex-husband’s belongings as he searched for Brundige’s loved ones.
Although Thomas and Garcia have not spoken to each other, Thomas said she appreciated reading about Garcia’s quasi-connection to Brundige.
“He (Garcia) said he even felt a connection to Lew,” Thomas said about Garcia. “I felt a lot of respect for that man for reaching out and trying to find someone to take them and I’d love to have them because we have a lot of history together, Lew and I.”
Even though Thomas is not in contact with Brundige’s daughter, she would like to take possession of the photos and documents.
“I do appreciate Mr. Garcia for taking care of that stuff, I really do. I really respect him for it,” Thomas said.
Garcia said he was humbled by her comments and wants to get in contact with her.
“I was really trying to do the right thing,” Garcia said in response to Thomas’ comments. “My father was in Vietnam and I lost all his pictures when I became homeless. I was lucky when I was able to save (Brundige’s photos).”
Garcia is also saddened to know that Brundige is no longer alive.
“I feel like I practically know him through the pictures with the bowling, the Marines, and being a police officer and raising up through the ranks,” Garcia said. “It tells a little tale about him.”