Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Alberta Elaine

Real Name: Alberta Elaine Schambier
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Date: 1943


Details: Joseph Schambier, a radio Santa Claus, is searching for his long-lost daughter, Alberta Elaine. Joseph lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was hit hard by the Great Depression. In 1937, there were still bread lines and jobs were difficult to find. Joseph, then twenty, got a job as a Western Union delivery boy. He married Garnet Lourey and within two months she was pregnant.
On June 16, 1939, he was working at Western Union when he learned that Garnet was going into labor. She was further in labor than expected; the landlady had called for a doctor, but he had yet to arrive. Joseph, in the end, had to help deliver the baby without a doctor. At 1 pm, the doctor finally arrived; he determined that both mother and daughter were in good health. Without a bassinet or bed, Joseph had to place their daughter in a drawer.
A few hours later, Garnet awoke and told him that if anything were to happen to her, he should give their daughter to a woman named Alice Miller. Alice had been practically a second mother to Garnet. Despite what the doctor claimed, Garnet died hours after giving birth. Joseph then took his daughter, named Alberta Elaine, to Alice. He felt that his daughter would be in good hands with her.

Joseph schambier.jpg

On November 30, 1941, Joseph enlisted in the army; just a week later, Pearl Harbor occurred. He was assigned to basic training at Fort Deavens, Massachusetts. After that, he was shipped out to the Pacific Theater. During this time, he never forgot about Alberta. Inside a small prayer book, he kept his only photograph of his daughter (shown above). He tried to write to Alice Miller and his daughter, but received no response.
In August 1943, Joseph suffered a head injury during air raid drills in the Panama Canal Zone. After treatment, he complained of neck and back pain. He was then flown to a Boston hospital for further treatment. On the way, his plane stopped at Allegheny Airport in Pittsburgh. He decided to call Alice to see how his daughter was doing. An unknown woman answered; when he told the woman who he was, she stated that everyone thought Joseph was dead. As a result, Alberta had been placed for adoption. The woman also claimed that Alberta's adoption records were sealed, and that he would never see his daughter again.
Despite his best efforts, Joseph has been unable to locate his daughter. In 1946, he married for the second time. He and his new wife moved to New England. He worked as a clerk for the Veteran's Administration. One year later, at Christmastime, he phoned a young girl in the neighborhood pretending to be Santa Claus. Within weeks, all the neighborhood children started asking for calls from Santa. A year later, a local radio station put Joe on the air. Young callers across the country began contacting him.
Joseph is still looking to find Alberta and hopefully reunite with her.
Extra Notes: The original airdate for this episode is December 20, 1989.

Alberta Elaine, age eighteen

Results: Solved. After a forty-seven-year search for his daughter, Joseph received the most heartbreaking news. A viewer in Pittsburgh began to trace Joseph's family tree. The viewer, Nancy Bartoo, soon discovered from newspaper articles that Alberta died tragically in an explosion on July 25, 1957, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the age of eighteen. She had been raised by Grace Williams of Bridgeville and believed that both of her parents were deceased. Her estranged husband, Paul Depew, had rigged his car with dynamite after his last attempt to reconcile with her failed. The explosion killed both Paul and Alberta, along with another innocent bystander. Joseph was saddened to learn of his daughter's death, but was content with the fact that his search was over.
Joseph eventually passed away himself in 1997 at the age of 80.