Diploma sparks hunt for long-ago graduate Police find no trace of girl in 1934 photo

January 28, 1996|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,SUN STAFF

Pearl Leona Gilmore's high school diploma has been lost and found, then lost and found again. Now it's Ms. Gilmore who is missing. At least that's the way Anne Arundel County police see it.

Detective Thomas Adams is looking for the 1934 graduate of the then-all-girls Eastern High School in Baltimore, or for her nearest relative, so he can return the diploma and a picture of her graduating class.

The items were found in a dark brown chest-of-drawers that sold for no more than $25 in April 1992 at a flea market to raise money for the preschool at Asbury United Methodist Church in Arnold.

Donna Davis, then chairwoman of a committee that oversees the preschool, and Pamela Smith, who was director of the school, found them rolled together in a drawer when they were preparing toys, clothes and other items for the sale.

Mrs. Davis put the picture and diploma in a box, which she left in the garage of her home in Arnold. Her husband, county police Capt. Emerson Davis, found them three weeks ago.

Captain Davis, commander of the Northern District, asked Detective Adams to try to find Mrs. Gilmore. But the detective said he has turned up "a big, fat, zero."

Detective Adams checked with the school -- now Lake Clifton-Eastern High School -- and the Baltimore Board of Education for records. He checked newspapers for obituaries, the Motor Vehicle Administration for a driving record and city records for birth and death certificates, all to no avail.

"I even tried going through the phone book under the last name Gilmore and asking, 'Hey, did you have a relative named Pearl Leona Gilmore?' " Detective Adams said. "Most likely she got herself married. If I had a married name, she probably would have been easy to find."

The diploma, dated June 26, 1934, was signed by then-Baltimore Mayor Howard W. Jackson and Principal Laura J. Cairnes. Ms. Gilmore's name was handwritten on the document, which has yellowed over the years.

A red Baltimore City seal is stuck to the bottom left corner of the diploma.

The picture -- about 2 feet long -- shows girls almost all in white dresses. In the hairstyles of the day, most had short bobs parted on the side and combed over, or their hair was parted in the middle and pulled into ponytails. Many had their hands folded in their laps, though some were hugging classmates.

L Two girls held the class banner, which reads "1934 E. H. S."

"We had no way to know who it came from," Mrs. Davis said.

When she found the papers. Mrs. Davis advertised in newsletters that go out to preschoolers' families and to church members, but no one came forward to claim them, she said.

Finally, they were put in a file in the box that was placed in Mrs. Davis' garage.

"We never even thought to give it [the file] to police," she said.

Detective Adams said he still has a few leads. He plans to try to find an alumni association or organizer of a class reunion to see if he can get an address for Ms. Gilmore.

"Maybe one of her classmates will call," he said. "I would think that this would be something that a son or daughter would like to have."

Anyone with information about Ms. Gilmore should call Detective Adams at 222-6135.

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