April 03, 2024

AFSCME member returns resident’s priceless heirloom

David Block has always had an eagle eye. His coworkers in the city of DeKalb Public Works Department joke that he could spot a penny on the side of the highway at 80 mph.

But Block’s keen sight was about to do more than help him get one cent richer. Block, a member of AFSCME Local 813, was going to return a DeKalb resident’s priceless family heirloom against all odds.

As snow fell on the city in early winter, local resident Rich Kakkuri slipped and fell while walking around town. When hours later he realized that he had lost his car keys in the slip, it was too late for any hope of finding them.

Worse than the lost keys was the heirloom he carried on the keychain. His grandfather served in the Army in World War II, and ever since his passing, Kakkuri carried his grandfather’s dog tag to honor his service and sacrifice.

He had little hope they would be returned, but called the Department of Public Works anyways to see if they had found them. City workers had already plowed the snow he slipped on and hauled it away. It looked like the dog tag was gone forever.

This winter, countless tons of snow were plowed off DeKalb city streets, pushed into enormous piles, loaded into trucks, and hauled to a remote area on the outside of town where it’s dumped until the spring sun could melt it away. Finding the dog tag there would be like the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Regardless, the public works employees would do their best. With most of the piles melted by February, Block went out to the mile-long road where the snow was dumped to scour it for anything of importance.

He walked for hours, staring down at the ground, hoping to find the key ring. He succeeded in finding five sets of keys—but no dog tag.

He was about to call it a day when he saw a shiny piece of metal about an inch long laying in the middle of the road.

“I just went nuts,” Block said. “I was all out there alone, jumping up and down and yelling. I couldn’t believe I found it.”

The Department of Public Works returned the dog tag to Kakkuri, who was astonished and appreciative of the fact that they were able to recover it.

“I’ve found all sorts of things—diamond rings and cash in the sewers,” Block said. “But this was the most valuable thing I’ve ever been able to return to someone.”

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