What would you do if you found a bag full of money?
For Paradise resident Jan Stratford, the answer is simple: Do everything you can to get it back to the owner.
Well, Stratford turned out to be the right person in the right place at the right time last Monday while driving into Logan from Paradise and happening upon, you guessed it, a bag full of money.
But she didn’t know the bag contained cash at the time, though it resembled the pouches used by businesses to make their bank deposits. It was sitting in the middle of the northbound lane next to a pair of tennis shoes, and after she initially drove past the curious items, something told her to go back.
“I passed these shoes and a blue envelope on the road, and with there being COVID I thought, ‘No, I’m going to leave it,’” she told The Herald Journal in recounting the incident. “Anyway, it bothered me so I turned around and went back.”
She stepped into the road to retrieve the pouch but left the tennis shoes. She then set the pouch in the back of her pickup truck and drove on to a scheduled medical appointment.
“I didn’t even look inside it, but I could feel there was something in there,” she said. “When I got to the doctor’s office, I picked up the pouch and opened it, and holy cow. I was shocked. There was a lot of money in there.”
It counted out to be more than $700. Along with the money was a small metal wallet with a combination lock. Stratford noticed the pouch said Cache Valley Bank, and she thought about taking it there in hopes that bank personnel could find the owner through the lock combination. Then she turned the pouch over and saw the words “Bag. HuHot.”
Stratford has never eaten at HuHot Mongolian Grill at 660 S. Main St., but she’s seen it while driving by and decided to deliver the pouch back to the restaurant personally. She was met there by the assistant manager Mario Salvan.
“I showed him the pouch and he asked, 'Are you from the bank?' When I said no, his jaw just dropped. It was so funny,” Stratford said.
Salvan thanked the Paradise woman profusely and offered her a free meal for her and her family, but she declined any reward and left without giving her name.
Turns out that on the Monday in question, the bag had been in the care of Salvan’s son in law, HuHot owner Adam Hawkes, who set it on the roof of his car along with his sneakers while loading his children in the car for a trip to their grandmother’s house in North Logan before heading to work for the day. The $700-plus was the till money used at the start of each day at the restaurant.
“By the time I got to Elk Ridge Park, I realized what I’d done and I called my mom and said, ‘We’re not going to make it. I left the money on top of the car and it blew off,’” Hawkes said. “I knew exactly what happened, because I remember saying to myself, 'Don’t forget that.'”
While retracing his route, Hawkes found the shoes but not the money pouch. Then he got a phone call from Salvan reporting it had been recovered. Both men were disappointed they did not have the name of the woman who returned it.
“This lady is an angel, and we want to reward her in any way we can for her help,” Hawkes said. “Anywhere outside of Cache Valley, you'll have maybe a 1 to 25 percent chance somebody would return money like she did. In Cache Valley you could probably say there a 50-50 chance or more.”
Stratford wrote a long Facebook post about her unusual find that included a photo of Salvan holding the bank pouch.
Friends agreed with the owner that many people would not have returned the money, but some also urged her to accept the free meal.
“HuHot is amazing — you really should accept the free meal!” wrote one of her friends.