Of course, he would return all that money
A simple black-and-white ad appeared in last week's Times: Lost. White envelope with large amount of cash in Vineyard Haven desperately needed for medical expenses. $500 reward.
Luckily, it caught the eye of Steve Bartoloni, who found and returned $7,050 in cash to its grateful owner, Paul Gibbs, last Friday morning in an emotional meeting at the Tisbury police department.
Remembering his despair when he discovered his loss, Mr. Gibbs said, "I'm a fatalist. I just hoped someone would find the money. I actually prayed for the first time in a long time."
Mr. Bartoloni was the answer to his prayers.
Steve Bartoloni, at left, puts the envelope of cash he found back into the hands of its rightful owner, Paul Gibbs. Photo by Janet Hefler
Mr. Gibbs, originally from Kent, England, has lived on the Island for 20 years and currently lives in Oak Bluffs. For the past three months, he has been working as a carpenter during the week in Westport, Conn., and cashing his paychecks to save up money for medical treatment off-Island that will require a two-week hospitalization.
On Saturday, Jan. 14, Mr. Gibbs walked into downtown Vineyard Haven from North Williams Street. One of his coat pockets contained a white envelope filled with his savings, bundles of $20, $50 and $100 bills, which he intended to deposit at the bank.
Along the way, he stopped at Cumberland Farms and Mocha Mott's. Arriving at the bank just minutes after it closed, he headed home. Taking his coat off when he got home, his heart sank when he reached in the pocket and found the envelope was gone.
He quickly retraced his steps, checking with store clerks at Cumberland Farms and Mocha Mott's and searching inside and outside both places, with no luck. Realizing the enormity of his loss, Mr. Gibbs said he tried to resign himself to the fact the money probably was gone for good.
Not so fast
After finishing his morning workout at the Mansion House on Saturday morning, Mr. Bartoloni walked over to pick up his mail at the post office. Trudging back with the hood of his coat pulled up and his head down to avoid the gusting wind and rain, he spotted an envelope with money sticking out of it on the ground near the curb by the crosswalk between Cumberland Farms and the firehouse.
Feeling the weight of the envelope as he picked it up, Mr. Bartoloni said he did not trust himself to count the money. "I took it home and had my wife do it," he confessed.
The retired pipefitter and his wife Pat, a former real estate agent, have lived in Vineyard Haven since moving from Foxboro in 1985.
Mr. Bartoloni said he figured whoever lost the money would likely place an ad in the newspaper.
Later that same morning, Mr. Gibbs went to the Tisbury Police Department and filed a report with Officer Christopher Habekost. He told the officer he thought he might have set the envelope down when he poured a cup of coffee in Cumberland Farms.
Officer Habekost followed up on his report the next day by reviewing the store's security video with the manager. The tape showed Mr. Gibbs purchasing a cell phone with money from the white envelope and the envelope sticking out of his pocket as he left the store.
When Officer Habekost phoned him with the discouraging news, Mr. Gibbs decided he would place an ad in the paper.
After spotting it in The Times last Thursday, Mr. and Mrs. Bartoloni stopped in at the Tisbury police station to report they had found an envelope that matched the description.
"They were concerned that the money could be ill-gotten gains for someone and were nervous about handing it over to the person themselves, so they came to the police station and they asked us to assist them in contacting Mr. Gibbs and returning the money," said Ted Saulnier, Tisbury's chief of police.
Officer Frank Williams picked up the money from the Bartolonis at their home. It took a couple of calls that day before Chief Saulnier reached Mr. Gibbs and arranged to return the money the next day.
Mr. Gibbs arrived at the police station last Friday morning to find Mr. Bartoloni waiting for him. The two men clasped hands firmly, as Mr. Gibbs told him in a voice thick with emotion, "You've redeemed my faith in people."
Mr. Bartoloni just smiled and shrugged. "It was not my money. It was yours. Of course I would return it," he said.
Handed the envelope by Officer Williams, Mr. Gibbs opened it with slightly trembling hands. Pulling out five $100 bills, he handed the promised reward to Mr. Bartoloni, who promptly peeled off three of the bills and gave them back. "That's too much," he told Mr. Gibbs.
Obviously shaken, Mr. Gibbs then tried to donate $200 of the returned money to the Tisbury police department, which Officer Williams politely told him he could not accept.
Placing his hand gently on Mr. Gibbs's shoulder, Mr. Bartoloni had but one request, "Do me a favor. I want to see you put that envelope in the top pocket of your shirt, put your coat on and zip it up, and go to the bank right now and put that money in!"