Faith & Values
Found Bible returned to owner after 40 years
Sep 19, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Deborah Savely, of Lebanon, has a dear keepsake back in her hands again, after it went missing for 40 years.
It only took a tornado, a multi-state search and some dedicated Volunteer State Community College staff members to make the reunion happen. The item in question is a Bible given to her by her father. The search began when a Vol State retiree did some cleaning.
“We’d been down in the basement of my house cleaning out,” said Betty Gibson, the former administrative assistant to the president. “There was a box of things that were left over from the tornado at Vol State in 2006. I looked through and found this Bible. From the inscription, I thought that this would really mean something to the family.”
The inscription read “To Deborah Savely. By Mother and Daddy. June 1961.” It wasn’t much to go on. No one had any idea where the Bible had actually been at the college, as it was in with a box of items uncovered in tornado rubble. Gibson notified the current administrative assistant, Karen Waller and the search began. Waller put out an email to faculty and staff asking if anyone knew Deborah Savely. A number of people took up the search, including Amber Regan in the Records and Registration Office.
“I saw the email and it pulled on my heartstrings,” Regan said. “I found that there was a student who graduated here in 1974 with that name. I just started Googling and putting names together. I was determined.”
The problem was that Savely had moved several times in the last 40 years and changed names. Regan scoured through dozens of websites and listings, tracking down Deborah Savely through four states. She called many people to no avail. Finally, another amateur sleuth, Holly Nimmo in the Public Relations Office, found that there was a Facebook page for Deborah Savely. It wasn’t active, so it was unlikely she would check a message.
“I looked at her listed place of employment and I called her corporate office and gave them the name,” Regan said. “They helped, but couldn’t find it. Finally, through a professional services website, I found her Edward Jones office in Lebanon.”
It was not a phone call Deborah could have ever expected at work. “I got this phone call and the person said, ‘are you Deborah Savely?’ I said, ‘yes,’ and she said, ‘I finally found you.’ I said, ‘is that a good thing?’”
After confirming that it really was the person she was looking for, Regan told her about the Bible. “I was glad I was sitting down,” Savely said. “All the wind went out of me. I was in tears. I said, ‘my black Bible?’ I haven’t seen that in 40 years.”
It was a family Bible with a very special significance for Savely. It was given to her when she was 7 years old by her father, John Savely. He died suddenly of a heart attack when she was just 17 years old.
“Daddy died in Oct. 1971. I started at Vol State as a student in September 1972. So, this was all I had of Daddy. I carried the Bible with me in my backpack every day. Obviously, at some point it came out of my backpack. It never dawned on me that I had lost it at Vol State.”
Savely thought the Bible went missing in a house move in 1974, shortly after graduating from Vol State. She was heartbroken at the time and was now rejoicing at the amazing find. She arranged to meet with Amber Regan and Betty Gibson to get the Bible back. And then she called her mother.
“My first reaction was that something terrible had happened,” said June Savely. “She was sobbing. She cried, and I cried when she told me. She could not wait to touch the Bible. It has meant everything to her.”
That moment finally came 40 years after the loss, as Regan and Gibson officially returned the Bible to Deborah Savely, with her mom looking on.
“You will never know what you did,” June Savely said to Gibson and Regan. “There are not words to tell you.”
Mother and daughter opened the Bible to see the inscription written so many years ago.
“I feel complete,” Deborah Savely said. “I’ve got my Daddy back. I put my hand on that page, and I swear I felt his hand on mine.”