Woman's wallet containing keepsake disappears while shopping

'It would mean everything' for prayer card to be returned, Gwen O'Rourke says

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After shopping for cat food last week at a PetSmart on Jacksonville’s Northside, a woman discovered that her wallet had vanished at some point, likely around the time she had completed her purchase.

The good news, if you could call it that, was that Gwen O’Rourke only had $40 inside the wallet. Her credit card hadn't been used, and she canceled it quickly. The wallet itself wasn't expensive either, she said.

Family photo from when Gwen O’Rourke's son, the boy in the black jacket, celebrated Holy Communion for the first time

But O’Rourke lost a memory in that wallet, she said. The memory involves when her son, Ross, celebrated his First Holy Communion. O’Rourke carried his prayer card with her, which she picked out, she said.

“Basically, it just says, ‘As I enter my First Communion, pray for me,’” O’Rourke said. “(It’s) very simple -- very childlike, which was perfect. … And I guess it's not really what it says and it's (more) what it meant to me.”

Now, the keepsake is gone -- unless a Christmas miracle takes place and the wallet is somehow returned.

“I just figured (at first, that whoever stole it) was somebody who really needed money,” O’Rourke said.

She isn’t necessarily angry, and said she mostly blames the “bad cats” for whom she provides foster care. As for the $40, “I had pulled it out the day before because we're doing a Christmas charity here at work, and I was going to give that, so (that it) went to a real total stranger,” O’Rourke said.

Gwen O’Rourke speaks with Kent Justice

However, O’Rourke did spend a lot of money on a trip to Disney World she took with her children and grandchildren, she said.

O’Rourke admitted she should have been more careful with her wallet, especially at this time of year.

“Yeah, I was definitely distracted,” she said. “And I think I was just in a hurry and simply (reached) for the purse, threw it in the car and away I went."

When asked what it would mean to her if someone were to return the prayer card, O’Rourke said, “You going to make me cry again.”

“Oh, my God,” she said. “It would mean everything. I can't replace it. It was just a very special -- you know, (it) is a very, very special moment.”

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith suggested using extra caution around the holidays. Remember to make it hard on crooks: Don’t let them take your things with ease, Smith said.

If you have a wallet and a purse, keep the wallet in a zipped or snapped pocket. Have your purse strapped across your body, not just hanging off a shoulder.

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