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Published: Sunday, August 18, 2019 @ 2:00 PM
MIDDLETOWN — Editor’s Note: This column first published on April 16, 2019.
If only this pocket watch could talk. The tales it would tell.
Stolen 23 years ago during a home burglary in Lexington, Kentucky, the Elgin pocket watch has been returned to its owner thanks to an inquisitive — and thoughtful — Middletown man.
Let’s start this story by turning the clock back to 1996.
Albert B. Oberst, 59, who owns a sign business in Lexington, said when he and his wife returned home after dinner one Saturday night, they interrupted a home invasion. The thieves only had time to steal his wife’s costume jewelry and a pocket watch that was displayed in a glass case off his dresser.
But this was no ordinary pocket watch. It was a family heirloom that had been passed down to three generations from Albert Benedict Oberst to his son, Jim Oberst, to his grandson, Albert Oberst. The watch was inscribed with Oberst’s grandfather’s name, Albert Benedict Oberst, and Owensboro, the city where he practiced law his entire life.
The attorney, then in his 40s, was shot while sitting at the dining room table, an incident that cost him his left eye but didn’t end his law practice, his grandson said.
Oberst said he dreamed of carrying on the family tradition and passing the pocket watch down to the next generation if he had a son.
For days after the burglary, Oberst searched Lexington pawn shops hoping to find the stolen watch. Eventually, he gave up.
“I figured it was lost forever,” Oberst said.
That’s where the story could have ended.
But 23 years later and 120 miles away in Middletown, Larry Glenn got into a dispute with a home improvement contractor who was given a $200 down payment to repair Glenn’s basement drywall. But the contractor never completed the work, and when Glenn confronted the man, the contractor offered an antique pocket watch as collateral.
The stolen watch.
When Glenn opened the pocket watch’s cover, he noticed someone had etched the message: “Albert Benedict Oberst, Owensboro.”
The watch, Glenn said, was “pretty cool” and he realized it probably had sentimental value to the Oberst family.
Glenn took photos of the watch and inscription, then searched the Internet for anyone with a matching name. Thankfully, there aren’t many people named Albert Oberst out there.
Glenn found an Albert Oberst III, who had just moved to New York City. On Facebook, he sent Oberst a picture of the watch and asked if he knew its history.
Since the 22-year-old wasn’t born when the watch was stolen, he forwarded the message and picture to his father in Lexington.
“Does this mean anyone to you?” he wrote to his father.
“OMG,” his father wrote back. “That is the watch.”
His father called the watch “a priceless heirloom.”
Oberst and Glenn communicated on the Internet and they agreed $200 was a fair price for the watch, the same amount Glenn paid the contractor. Oberst’s daughter and son-in-law, Lauren and Aaron Anderkin, met Glenn at his home earlier this month after going to a Cincinnati Reds game, the Cincinnati Zoo and Cincinnati Premium Outlets.
“It couldn’t have worked out more perfect,” Glenn said. “It was meant to happen the way it did.”
Glenn never hesitated returning the watch.
“It really belongs to them,” he said. “To me, some things you can’t buy. It wasn’t about the money. Family means the most to me.”
You may remember Larry Glenn. Two years ago, he thwarted a home burglary in Middletown by entering his neighbor’s home and confronting the suspect with a loaded gun. After cocking the gun, Glenn said the suspect “got the message” and surrendered.
When asked about his two Good Samaritan efforts, Glenn said, “I always believe in doing the right thing. I was raised that way.