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Man discovers Oak Park alum’s long-lost letterman jacket hundreds of miles from home

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A high school letterman jacket disappeared years ago, a sentimental loss for an Oak Park High School graduate. Recently a complete stranger found it by chance, in a most unusual place.

Forty-three-year old Aaron Smith, who also happens to be an Oak Park alum, was shopping in the East Village while in New York City when he found a row of letterman jackets in the corner of a vintage clothing store. When he saw one from his alma mater, he decided to try and discover its rightful owner.

"I saw the blue on blue, which I always loved about Oak Park`s colors," Smith said.

The jacket had the last name "Keil" on the back.

"Sadly enough I didn't buy it right away, I put it back. I was so shocked I found this jacket in the basement of a clothing store in the East Village," Smith said.

However, he changed his mind, and went back to buy the jacket.

"I started thinking about all the ways someone might lose a letter jacket, and it stuck with me, and my gut said go back and try to find this guy," Smith said.

He went to the Oak Park High Facebook alumni page. His class of `89 friends chimed in with suggestions, one of which was to contact Meagan O'Donnell, North Kansas City Schools Alumni Coordinator. She quickly identified the jacket belonged to Sam Keil.

"We have all of the old Oak Park yearbooks, so I went to the yearbook and matched the last name up to Sam's, and I was able to find him on Facebook and I sent him a message," said O'Donnell.

"Within an hour of contacting her, I was talking to Sam, he verified it was his jacket," said Smith.

Keil had been missing the jacket for a long time.

"It happened to be my letter jacket that was stolen from me out of my car my junior year of high school," said Keil, who graduated in 2008.

He earned the jacket playing football and was devastated when it was stolen in 2007.

"I actually came up and talked to the principal at the time and he said he`d help me find it but no luck," Keil added. "I actually completely forgot about it until Meagan contacted me."

On Thursday, Smith and Keil met for the first time, and Smith returned Keil's jacket, something he never thought he`d see again.

"What was crazy is they say it was in New York. I've never been anywhere near New York, so that just blew my mind," Keil said.

Keil thanked Smith, and he said returning the jacket was priceless.

"You made my day, mister, that was great, that`s all I needed right there," said Smith about Keil's reaction.

Both alums say this is a perfect example of the schools saying: "Blue on blue, through and through."

As if the jacket weren't enough, it turns out the pair shares another connection.  Smith graduated from Oak Park in 1989, with Keil's stepfather. They had classes and played football together.

*Smith currently lives in Colorado and was visiting Kansas City this week and arranged the reunion. Keil still lives in the Kansas City metro area.