DENNIS – Elaine Babineau Lomenzo thought it was a hopeless loss.
On Jan. 30, in her rush to get home to Dennis, she left a large suitcase containing jewelry and some irreplaceable mementos on a sidewalk outside the family's Back Bay condominium. After some searching, she came to the sad conclusion the bag and its contents were gone forever.
Not so, thanks to a Good Samaritan.
That day, Lomenzo was not only in a hurry, she was pre-occupied. Her parents had died within five days of each other two weeks earlier. While Helen and Robert Babineau had lived long, full lives - Robert was 91 and Helen, 97 - Lomenzo was shaken by the loss.
A considerable clan of Babineaus was on the way to the Cape for a memorial service, traveling from Idaho, Arizona, Rhode Island and Central Massachusetts.
“We were going to have a gathering of 35 people the next night,” Lomenzo said. Even more family would arrive for a memorial service the day after that.
Thinking of all the preparations ahead, Lomenzo dropped the heavy suitcase on the sidewalk behind her car in the Back Bay as her daughter, Molly, hoisted her own luggage into the trunk.
After asking Molly to load the black suitcase, Lomenzo got behind the wheel. Molly didn't hear her mother's request or see the bag, and the pair pulled away, leaving the suitcase behind.
When she arrived home and realized the suitcase was missing, Lomenzo rushed back to Boston. “I checked the door of the condominium in case someone found it and left a note,” Lomenzo said. “I had identification inside.”
She even checked nearby dumpsters in case the bag had been stolen and discarded.
Her search was fruitless, and she was despondent.
“I'm just in the middle of this profound loss of these people who meant everything to me, and now I've just lost everything material that mattered to me,” she said. “It just sort of made me sadder than I already was.”
But Jamaica Plain resident Carlos Guerra had been renovating an apartment nearby and seen Lomenzo drive away without taking the suitcase. He ran out and picked it up for safekeeping.
Guerra knew Lomenzo by sight, he said in a phone interview. He put the suitcase in his van and figured Lomenzo would return to Boston the following day and he could return it.
When Guerra didn't see her on Jan. 31, he took the bag home, opened it looking for information and saw Lomenzo's telephone number. His daughter Angela made the call.
“My husband got up at the crack of dawn on the morning of the funeral and picked the suitcase up,” Lomenzo said. “He gave them a reward but they didn't want to accept it. He had to practically force them.”
Guerra was empathetic. “I have things that are important to me, and I know how bad I would feel if I lost them.”
At home on Friday, Lomenzo shared a few of the keepsakes in the bag: a poem written to her by her now adult son, Thomas, when he was 7; pictures of a younger Molly with her grandparents; a watch her husband, Peter, gave her 25 years ago; even a leftover note from Santa.
Molly said the episode offered a valuable lesson. “It was a reminder that people can be good.”