PITTSFIELD -- Chance had it that city resident Maria Brodeur would find the book.
In October, Brodeur knocked the thin white volume off the shelf at the Salvation Army on Dalton Avenue while removing a Nicholas Sparks novel. Picking it up, she quickly discovered it was 100 years old and depicted an infant child's early years.
"The Baby's Record and Health," the title read. The child's name, Thomas R. Darmody Jr. Date of birth, Aug. 1, 1913.
Many would have left it at that. Not Brodeur.
"I bought the book," Brodeur said. "My goal was to return it to its owner."
She paid 99 cents for it.
A photograph inside showed the baby in a Victorian bassinet. On its other pages, someone's handwriting documented facts about the child: weight and height gain; first steps; first words and more.
"It melted my heart," Brodeur said. "I thought, ‘This is an heirloom. This is someone's father, grandfather, great grandfather.' "
So she took to the Web. Years before, in 1999, she'd undertaken a similar task: finding out who her birth parents were. Born in Holyoke, Brodeur was adopted by a Pittsfield couple during infancy.
That endeavor involved poring over hundreds of old newspapers on microfilm at the UMass-Amherst library and following up with hospitals.
This time did not nearly take so long, thanks to Internet networking.
"The phone rang and my wife [Madlyn] answered it," said Thomas R. Darmody III, 74, son of the infant in the book. "It was Maria. Apparently she had found my wife's name on Facebook."
The kicker? The Darmodys don't have much to do with the Berkshires. They live in Forked River, N.J. And Darmody hails from Drexel Hill, Penn.
"[Maria] started to describe the book and I knew from what she was saying it was my father," Darmody said. "I just couldn't figure out how the heck it ended up in Western Mass."
Brodeur, in order to get this far, had found an obituary for Thomas R. Darmody Jr. -- the infant in the book -- who died in January 2012, at the age of 98. She called St. Dorothy Parish in Drexel Hill and learned of Thomas R. Darmody III and Madlyn from a nun there.
Darmody said he then put it all together.
"My father's sister had a daughter, who lived on a farm [in the Berkshires] and raised springer spaniels," he said. "[The sister] died a little over a year ago. [The book] must have ended up at the thrift shop after people cleaned out the house."
After their conversation, Brodeur packed up the book in a plastic container and mailed it to Darmody's home. Darmody said he's excited to share the find with his family.
Darmody said his father, the infant in the book, graduated from Villanova University in Philadelphia, and became a civil engineer. He himself worked in law enforcement.
For Brodeur, the experience was a touching way for two strangers to meet.
"A lot of my friends tell me, ‘That book was meant to find you,' " Brodeur said.
"I was so impressed with her," Darmody said. "You could tell she cared, was very concerned about getting that book to me. I feel like I know her now. It's been a terrific experience."
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