Betty Hilosky goes treasure hunting every day, scouring thrift stores for items others discard.
She's found some great deals: Waterford crystal, a Hummel angel figurine and enough oil paintings of nautical scenes (her favorite) to cover her living room walls.
But the prize the Stafford County woman recently brought home was more than a bargain.
It was a piece of family history.
Hilosky, 77, had scoured the Rappahannock Goodwill Industries store in White Oak, off State Route 218. She was carrying her daily deals to her red Toyota when something told her to go back.
As Hilosky dug through a cart of items that had just been put out on the floor, she pulled out a hand-carved coat of arms.
"Oh, that's pretty," she thought.
Then she looked at the name etched in mahogany, and her heart almost stopped.
"If it had said Smith or Snellings or any other local name, it wouldn't have surprised me, but HINMAN?" she wrote in an email. "That was my maiden name."
She couldn't wait to share her discovery with her brother in California.
He has a coat of arms carved by their great-uncle, probably 75 to 100 years ago in Warrenton.
Hilosky and her brother exchanged photos of their pieces and are certain their relative also carved the one she found at Goodwill.
"I have no doubt that this is his work," Hilosky said. "It's just too similar to the other."
'HE WAS QUITE A MAN'
The coat of arms features an animal perched atop a crest of roses and surrounded by ornate branches and leaves. Hilosky called the creature a griffin, a combination lion and eagle, but this one also has the chest, wings and tail of a dragon.
Her great-uncle was Edward Maurice Blackwell, and he was her grandmother's brother.
"I knew him as a child," Hilosky said. "He was quite a man."
Blackwell was a naval commander who loved to carve wood. A family history he wrote shows a photo of him in his den, surrounded by carvings and curios.
His sister--Hilosky's grandmother--got married in 1897 when memories of the Civil War were still fresh. Their father had fought for the South while the father of the prospective groom fought for the North.
Some relatives of Hilosky's grandmother threatened to shoot her Yankee suitor, so the two eloped.
Uncle Maurice, as he came to be called, helped his sister with the spur-of-the-moment wedding and became "the closest of family friends" with his sister's husband, according to Hilosky's brother, Wilbur Hinman III.
He lives in California and inherited the coat of arms after his and Hilosky's parents died.
Neither of them knew that their great-uncle had carved a second Hinman crest. They can't imagine how it ended up at a Goodwill store.
"I don't know who owned it, but it surely was carved by Uncle Maurice," Hinman wrote in an email.
"It's a real mystery" that Hilosky would like to solve. She asked that anyone with information about the carving call her at 540/220-1827.
"Hinman is not a common name," she said. "For me to just happen to go back into Goodwill and find it is kind of spooky."
'A WONDERFUL OUTLET'
Hilosky visits almost every Goodwill store in the region daily. She sells most of what she buys at her consignment booth at Two Times New, off State Route 3 near Big Lots.
She's partial to anything stitched, sewn, carved or painted as a labor of love. She can't bear the thought of a handmade item winding up unwanted.
Hilosky makes enough money to pay the rent on the booth, but it's clear the searches for bargains are strictly business.
"Every day is a treasure hunt," she said. "You never know what you're going to find. It's a wonderful outlet, and I think it's kind of harmless."
Cashiers have developed a knack for knowing what she likes, and that's why Dawn Madsen pointed out a pewter creamer and sugar set on a recent visit.
Madsen is a cashier at the Goodwill store off U.S. 17 in Falmouth.
Hilosky bought the set, along with a pewter mug for 99 cents, an Asian-style oil painting of flowers in a golden frame and a cheese board with ornate carvings of grape clusters.
"She likes vintage stuff and sometimes strange and unusual things," Madsen said, adding that Hilosky is one of the store's regulars. "We have a good time."
Hiloksy often donates items to Goodwill as well and gets a 20 percent off coupon, which she uses before the ink dries on the store worker's signature.
"She's a good, good shopper," said Jennie Sullivan, cashier at the Goodwill behind Carlos O'Kelly's in Spotsylvania. "She finds a lot of good stuff."
That particular day, Hilosky checked out three different times.
First, she paid for a two-story dollhouse she spotted on the sidewalk and instantly claimed.
Then, she picked up vases and an embroidered sampler that said "experience enables us to recognize a mistake when you make it again."
She was almost out of the store when she made a detour through linens and found a handmade quilt, with fairies set against pink and purple backgrounds.
"That's too lovely to leave," she said, deciding it was worth the marked price of $14.99, before 20 percent off.
She called out, "See you tomorrow," when she approached the door for the last time.
Sullivan answered: "We'll be looking for you, honey-bunny."
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425