“Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and cannot be found.”

I recited the prayer out of desperation last weekend as my wife and I tore apart our campsite at Cobscook Bay State Park in search of the one thing I’d never, ever, in my life misplaced … until now.

My cellphone.

If you’ve been there and done that, you know the drill: Check every container and bag. Every nook and cranny in the car. My fishing tackle box. Clothes that I’d worn that day and the day before. Under the car. Under the camper. Then do it all again.

Next, call everywhere we’d been that day: The IGA in Eastport. Nothing. Horn Run Brewing in Eastport. Great IPAs, but alas no phone. The campground office at Cobscook, where we’d stopped briefly to buy ice. Another dead end.

Next up, St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, and the invocation I’ve recited reflexively over the decades whenever I lose something precious.

St. Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan friar, earned his role as celestial lost-and-found manager some 900 years ago after his treasured book of psalms disappeared and, being a priest and all, he prayed fervently for its return. Not long afterward, a novice who had left the Franciscan order and made off with the book was inexplicably moved it return it.

I can’t verify any of that, but I do know this: Since my devoutly Roman Catholic mother drilled that little petition into her eight kids’ heads when we were old enough to start losing things, I’ve used it as my go-to supplication more times than I can count.

And it’s worked. To wit: Twice over the years, my lost wallet has been returned to me in the mail – both times with my credit cards and cash still in it.

This time, however, things looked truly hopeless.

I know, I should have shared my phone’s location with my wife’s phone a long time ago. But I didn’t.

I did have an iCloud account, which has a “find my phone” function. But before it would allow me to pinpoint where the phone was, it wanted me to complete a “two-factor authentication.” The second factor was a passcode that iCloud sent to, you guessed it, my iPhone.

I tried valiantly not to think about the contacts, the passwords, the years of text messages and emails, the apps … life as I’ve come to know it.

“I’m not going to let this ruin our last night of vacation,” I resolved to my wife as the sun set through the campfire smoke Sunday evening. Which it didn’t, at least until I found myself wide awake at 2 a.m., wondering if whoever had my phone had already circumvented the four-digit unlocking code and was now merrily draining my checking account or devouring my personal communications like a voyeur on steroids.

Looking for a distraction, I instinctively reached out in the dark to catch up on the news. Oh, right.

An hour later, I did the same thing in search of Monday’s weather forecast. That’s when I started wondering if I’d become, shall we say, a tad too attached to a device that 15 years ago didn’t even exist.

Monday morning, Andrea and I made a last-ditch drive back to Reversing Falls Preserve in Pembroke, where we’d visited the previous day. I retraced our every step while she waited patiently (and I do mean patiently) in the car. No dice.

It being a work phone, I contacted the Portland Press Herald’s IT department via Andrea’s email to alert them to this disaster. They shut down the phone immediately – don’t ask me how – and advised me to come in Tuesday for a replacement.

There, IT support technician Charlie Herron worked his magic and, within a few minutes, I was back in business with a new phone. Most of my contacts were saved, but my old text messages and apps were nowhere to be found.

Charlie explained that some stuff must not have made it to the iCloud. My dearly departed mother would have called the missing data my penance for being so careless.

Just for yuks, Charlie and I went onto my iCloud account, where my old phone was still listed among the devices along with a “Find My Phone” prompt. I clicked on it and, lo and behold, a little blue pulsating light appeared along Route 190 in the Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point Reservation just outside of Eastport. We’d driven through there several times but hadn’t stopped.

The mystery deepened.

Having already called the Eastport police the day before, I dialed up the Pleasant Point Police Department. Chief Roger Newell could not have been more accommodating, checking his street directory and regretfully informing me that there was nothing – no homes, no businesses, no nothing – anywhere near the location of the ping. Just a long stretch of open road.

Still, Chief Newell took my contact information and promised to keep an eye out. I knew he wasn’t blowing me off when he started calling me “buddy.”

So began my workweek, reinstalling apps, trying to remember passwords, learning the ins and out of a new-but-different-model iPhone. “So much for St. Anthony,” I muttered to myself between screen swipes.

Then late Wednesday afternoon, I got a voicemail. Seeing it came from or near Eastport, I dialed the number without even listening to the message. Maybe it was the IGA? Or the brew pub? Or the campground?

It was Chief Newell.

“You’re not going to believe this, but someone just came in and dropped off an iPhone,” he said. “It’s got a little crack on the left side (of the clear plastic cover) just like you said. Can you give me your passcode so I can verify it’s yours?”

“I can’t,” I said. “The phone’s been shut down.”

Chief Newell fired it up anyway and my lock screen appeared.

“Do you have gray hair and a beard?” he asked.

“I do!”

And you’re pushing a wheelbarrow with two little kids in it?

“My grandsons!”

“That’s good enough for me, buddy,” Chief Newell said. “Give me your address and I’ll put it in a box and mail it to you.”

Now, I’m not out to convince the world that St. Anthony, upon receiving my alert that “something is lost,” nodded and said, “Let’s see here … an iPhone SE with a little crack on the cover. I’m on it!” Nor will I insist that as I await that package, the only thing left to do is pray to St. Gabriel, the patron saint of postal workers.

But I do know my phone, like my wallet-times-two, is on its way home – my best guess is that I absent-mindedly left the all-black device on the roof of my all-black car. And saints or no saints, I’ll forever be indebted to the Passamaquoddy community and its police chief who calls perfect strangers “buddy.”

Charlie in IT put it perfectly when I emailed him to tell him what once was lost now had been found.

“Wow,” he replied. “Good Samaritans are still a thing!”

Bless them all.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.