SALT LAKE CITY — When Josh Ferrin closed on his family’s first home, he never thought he’d make the discovery of a lifetime — then give it back.
Ferrin picked up the keys earlier this week and decided to check out the house in the Salt Lake City suburb of Bountiful. He was excited to finally have a place his family could call their own.
As he walked into the garage, a piece of cloth that clung to an attic door caught his eye. He opened the hatch and climbed up the ladder, then pulled out a metal box that looked like a World War II ammunition case.
"I freaked out, locked it my car, and called my wife to tell her she wouldn’t believe what I had found,” said Ferrin, who works as an artist for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.
Then he found seven more boxes, all stuffed full with tightly wound rolls of cash bundled together with twine - more than $40,000.
Ferrin quickly took the boxes to his parent’s house to count. Along with his wife and children, they spread out thousands of bills on a table, separating the bundles one by one.
They stopped counting at $40,000, but estimated there was at least $5,000 more on the table.
Ferrin thought about how such a large sum of money could go a long way, pay bills, buy things he never thought he could afford.
"I’m not perfect, and I wish I could say there was never any doubt in my mind. We knew we had to give it back, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t think about our car in need of repairs, how we would love to adopt a child and aren’t able to do that right now, or fix up our outdated house that we just bought,” Ferrin said. "But the money wasn’t ours to keep and I don’t believe you get a chance very often to do something radically honest, to do something ridiculously awesome for someone else and that is a lesson I hope to teach to my children.”
He thought about the home’s previous owner, Arnold Bangerter, who died in November and left the house to his children.
"I could imagine him in his workshop. From time to time, he would carefully bundle up $100 with twine, climb up into his attic and put it into a box to save. And he didn’t do that for me,” Ferrin said of the man who had worked as a biologist for the Utah Department of Fish and Game.
Bangerter purchased the home in 1966 and lived there with his wife, who died in 2005.
After most of the money was counted, Ferrin called one of Bangerter’s sons with the news.
Kay Bangerter said he knew his father hid away money because he once found a bundle of cash taped beneath a drawer in their home, but he never considered his dad had stuffed away so much over the years.
"He grew up in hard times and people that survived that era didn’t have anything when they came out of it unless they saved it themselves,” Kay Bangerter, the oldest of the six children, told the Deseret News. "He was a saver, not a spender.”
Bangerter called the money’s return "a story that will outlast our generation and probably yours as well.”
"I’m a father, and I worry about the future for my kids,” Ferrin said. "I can see him putting that money away for a rainy day and it would have been wrong of me to deny him that thing he worked on for years. I felt like I got to write a chapter in his life, a chapter he wasn’t able to finish and see it through to its conclusion.”