Jordan Kokel, a Midlothian resident and a Fort Worth firefighter, found a digital camera over 12 years ago. The camera contained numerous photos and videos of the owner’s family, including one from a dance recital and another from a tailgate picnic at a Rangers game. But when Kokel came across the camera in his bag, he had no idea where he found it or who it belonged to.
He tried finding the family by posting on social media, but no one ever recognized them. He never gave up, though. From time to time he would post another photo from the camera with a reminder that he was trying to locate the camera’s owners. But when WFAA TV reporter Alex Rozier saw a recent Facebook post about the missing camera, he interviewed Kokel for a story.
“Within five minutes after the story ran, the family had been tagged on Facebook, and numerous people called their cell phones informing them of the story,” Kokel said.
Finding the Stecher Family
The long-lost camera belonged to the Stecher family, who now live in St. Louis, MO. A follow-up story on WFAA TV shows the family then and now. Their son Collin was about six and their daughter Mattie about three years old in the videos. Collin is now 18 and a college freshman, while Mattie is 16 years old.
“At the time of the Facebook post, I had no idea where I came across the camera,” Kokel said. “After the second story on WFAA, the Stecher family and I figured out how I must have come across the camera. It must have been put into a bag or box of mine during the dance recital (for Mattie) in Fort Worth. I was doing some work as a photographer at the recital and when Mrs. Stecher was doing some ordering at the photography table, she must have left the camera on the table. At the end of the event, it got packed away with everything.”
Local Firefighter Jordan Kokel
Now 41, Kokel has been a firefighter for nine years. He is an engineer (driver) at Station #24 in Fort Worth, and has lived in Midlothian for six years. A graduate of Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, he played basketball at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie. Kokel received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Dallas Baptist University. His wife, Cathy, is the head volleyball coach at DBU. Their son Brooks is seven years old, and attends McClatchy Elementary School. Daisy, their daughter, is three years old. The Kokel family attends First Baptist Church Midlothian, and Cathy and Jordan teach children’s Sunday School classes there.
“After graduation, I was a school teacher and coach, but decided I wanted to run into burning buildings instead,” Kokel said. “Teachers are the real heroes though!” Before appearing on the WFAA and ABC World News shows, Kokel had last been seen on television as a stunt man on the Fox TV show “Prison Break” one summer.
Turn Back the Clock
“After this entire thing, I’ve figured out that I’m not a very good detective,” Kokel said. “I was very happy to see the family get those videos and turn back the clock a bit. I enjoy seeing people happy and seeing the response from people that have seen the story unfold, I hope it inspires others to give some effort in making a difference in someone else’s life. Too many times, we want to write a check and call it a day. But giving of your time and effort, many times makes a much bigger impact,” he said.
No doubt the Stecher family of St. Louis MO are glad that he didn’t give up until finding the owners of the mysterious lost camera. The videos and photos on the camera show the Stecher’s children were about the same age as Kokel’s son and daughter are now, so those lost memories could never be replaced.