It was June when Lakewood neighbor Teresa Gibson opened her computer to an email from eBay alerting her to some new items that might pique her interest.
Gibson is writing a book about Lakewood Shopping Center, and she is on Woodrow Wilson High School’s alumni association board, so she is always on the lookout for any items related to Lakewood.
“I’ve found vintage photos, restaurant menus, yearbooks, matchbooks and things like that,” she says. “There’s all kinds of cool stuff out there.”
But that day she noticed something that set off red flags.
One of the suggested items was the Hall of Fame plaque famed football player Tim Brown received from Woodrow.
“And I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that shouldn’t be on there,’” Gibson recalls.
Brown graduated from Woodrow before going on to play football for Notre Dame, where he became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in 1987. From there he played for 16 years for the Raiders in Los Angeles and he became one of the greatest wide receivers in the National Football League. He was formally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in August.
In 1989 Woodrow also honored Brown with a spot in the Woodrow Wilson High School Hall of Fame and gave him a plaque, which supposedly was kept at his mom’s house in Dallas. So what was it doing on eBay all the way up in New York?
Gibson reached out to other Woodrow alumni, and someone immediately made a call to Brown’s family to find out if Brown was missing his plaque. His sister confirmed the plaque, among the items, had been stolen.
After hearing the story, Jason Kulas, Woodrow class of 1989, placed a high bid of $123 to ensure the plaque would make its way back to Dallas.
For months the alumni association hung onto the plaque, waiting for the perfect opportunity to give it back to Brown.
Finally, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame honored Brown at Woodrow in November, the alumni association jumped at the chance to return Brown’s stolen plaque.
The best part? Brown had no idea until they presented it to him during the ceremony.
“He thought it was lost forever,” Gibson says. “He handed it to his mother, and she was not going to let go of it.”
Brown thanked Gibson and Kulas and posed with the two of them for a photo after the presentation.
To Kulas, it wasn’t just a chance to honor a member of the Woodrow community; it was also a chance to remember the kind of community Woodrow creates.
“I think this is a good example of the Woodrow community and how everyone supports each other,” Kulas explains.
“This obviously involves a celebrity, but I think it’s true in all cases, that people look out for each other. Everybody involved in this would have done the same thing for anyone involved in the Woodrow community, so to me that’s what makes this special.”
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