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Strangers help Eldridge woman gather scattered family photos
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BARB ICKES

Strangers help Eldridge woman gather scattered family photos

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When she saw the broken glass in the street, Rhonda Schnoor thought the worst.

She could see her husband’s truck pulled off to the side of the road, just past the Interstate 80 overpass on Division Street in Davenport.

It was Sunday, Aug. 19, and Rhonda already was exhausted. She’d spent the day unloading belongings from a storage unit on Kimberly Road and loading them into cars and trucks to haul to the Schnoors’ farm in Eldridge.

Rhonda had big plans for sorting through all the stored belongings. She is about to retire, and the Schnoors are moving to Clermont, Iowa. It was time to go through the family’s things.

Rhonda, her husband, Donald, and her sister and brother-in-law were hauling the last loads. Donald was ahead of his wife, pulling a full trailer behind his truck.

“I came upon the glass in the road, and I saw my husband’s truck,” Rhonda recalled last week. “My heart was just going so fast. I thought there’d been an accident.”

It wasn’t the kind of accident she expected.

“A strap got loose on my husband’s trailer, and the wind caught one of the storage containers,” she said. “At first, I couldn’t tell what was all over the road. I zoomed up there, and I saw that it was all my pictures.

“It was my life’s worth of pictures.”

She instantly started scooping her photos off the roadway. Donald, who has Parkinson’s disease, has difficulty bending over. But he realized in seconds that his wife was not alone.

“I had a ring-side seat,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! It’s such a busy street, and there are so many pictures.’

“There were 2,000, maybe 3,000 pictures.”

Rhonda was in a panic, chasing after decades’ worth of memories of the couple’s six children, their grandchildren, family, friends, vacations, everything.

That’s when she paused and looked up.

“All I could think of was that we would never get all these pictures picked up,” she said. “It was the first time I’d looked up. I saw all these people — at least 25 or 30 of them.

“There were cars parked all along the side of the road. All you could see was young men, older men, young ladies, older ladies — all working as hard and as fast as they could, getting these pictures together.

“I couldn’t believe it!”

She could hear people whispering: “This must be their whole life,” and “I’ll bet these are their grandchildren.”

Rhonda was so moved, when she got home, she dashed off a letter to the editor and sent it to the Quad-City Times.

“As everyone went back to their cars to continue on their way, I got to see some faces,” she wrote. “They all smiled at me, and I nodded, saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you.’

“I will never forget their faces. I just want all the people who helped that day to really know from my heart: Thank you all so much. Thank you for caring.”

Donald was moved by the kindness, too. He hustled around with a couple of 5-gallon buckets, collecting the pictures from smiling strangers. And he noticed something else.

“There was this gentle wind that was blowing the pictures off the oncoming lane of traffic and onto the other shoulder,” he said. “People were just dashing around, grabbing them as they floated off the road.

“There are a lot of good people in this world, you know? My wife is one of them. She’s a warm-hearted person who cares so much about people.

“We’re blessed.”

What goes around comes around.

And it just came around.

Contact Barb Ickes at 563-383-2316 or bickes@qctimes.com.

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