Good Samaritan Returns Treasure to Stranger

For nearly a year Nicholas Grod sat on a treasure, telling only his friend and his wife that he'd found $200,000 worth of savings bonds tucked away in his Oregon basement.

While spring cleaning one day last year, the 32-year-old university student found a wooden box under a homemade canning shelf in the mud room of his northeast Portland home.

"It came loose and I remember I fell back," he said. "My heart was pounding, and I could see there was typing on the envelope it was in. The star. I realized afterward maybe he even put it there as a clue -- X marks the spot."

What Grod found were war and U.S. Postal Bonds dating back to the 1940s. Mystified by the identity of the owner, Wilfred Petterson, Grod began a research project that eventually led him to the man's heir.

Video: Man finds $200K in his basement.

Grod, an art history and Chinese language major, admitted that he initially felt a lot of emotions.

"I think the biggest one was probably greed," he said with a laugh, even though he would have been unable to cash the bonds himself.

Instead, he listened to his inner good Samaritan, telling it was "better to give than to receive." Once the mystery was solved, he made a surprise telephone call to Oklahoma.

VOTE: Did Grod do the right thing?

Thomas Fagg of Tulsa, Okla., Petterson's 58-year-old grandson, was just getting ready to watch the Super Bowl when he got the call that he had just inherited close to a quarter-million dollars.

'We Lived Paycheck to Paycheck'

"My mother and father never had anything," said Fagg, a retired public school math teacher who now works as a juvenile detention counselor. "When we were growing up my folks lived paycheck to paycheck."

Grod said he was concerned that Fagg wouldn't take the call seriously.

"I was really specific to him to say, you know this is not a joke, not a prank call," he told Valerie Hurst of ABC News affiliate KATU.

Meanwhile, Fagg said he was thinking, "This can't be for real, because things like this don't happen to people."

"There are absolutely no words in the English language to describe someone who has that amount of honesty," Fagg told "It's just totally unbelievable. It's a story you read only in fairy-tale books."

Searching Census Records for Months

Grod's efforts to find Fagg were anything but fiction. He spent months searching the Internet to find the house's original owner, while also studying and working a part-time job as a cabinetmaker.

Turning to the U.S. Census, he learned that Petterson had a wife, Lydia, and two daughters, Nellie and Velma.

Grod also discovered that Petterson had worked for the fire department -- "the biggest clue in the whole journey" -- leading him to confirm that the mystery man had bought his house on 11th Street in 1927.

Petterson died in 1955 and his wife died in 1975. But an online obituary for his daughter Nellie in October led to a grandson in Tulsa -- Thomas Fagg.

When Grod first called, he "asked me me lots of questions to verify who I was, then he told me the story," said Fagg.

Grod explained that Fagg would receive bonds with "several large denominations" worth about $200,000. The good Samaritan had even gone online to find the bonds' serial numbers to learn their value.

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