A San Diego County Navy veteran proves it’s never too late to make amends when he recently repaid a Florida newspaper for a teenage caper committed 55 years ago.
Bernard Schermerhorn, 74, told NBC 7 he was a pretty good kid in high school, except for one time with a friend.
“We were in my grandma's 54 Kaiser and were stealing the newspapers,” Schermerhorn recounted. “He threw the newspapers out on the side of the road and later took the wire newstands and the change holders and threw them into phosphate pits."
The deep pits made the stands impossible to recover, should the teens have felt a twinge of guilt.
The property belonged to the Lakeland Ledger in Florida, about 35 miles east of Tampa.
Schermerhorn, who now lives in La Mesa, had quite forgotten about the incident until he sat down to write his 47th novel. The words prompted a memory and a crazy idea.
“I decided the thing to do is by golly, you’ve got the money. Send the money,” he said.
So 55 years after the escapade, the veteran took out his checkbook and wrote a $200 payment to the Ledger, along with a note of apology. He even accounted for inflation, paying what he estimated was about four times the amount of what he and his friend destroyed.
Workers at the Ledger were pleasantly shocked.
"Well, I was obviously a bit surprised,” said the paper’s publisher Kevin Drake. “In my career, I've never received a letter from someone like that where they wanted to make restitution for something they did 55 years ago."
Drake wasn’t even born when the prank occurred.
Schermerhorn said didn’t necessarily feel guilty about the incident, nor did he lose sleep over it.
“Wrong is wrong. If you can do something to rectify that, you should,” he counseled.