LINCOLN — In the early 1950s, the wallet of a young GI from Lincoln came up missing at the Camp Roberts National Guard post north of San Miguel, Calif.

LINCOLN — In the early 1950s, the wallet of a young GI from Lincoln came up missing at the Camp Roberts National Guard post north of San Miguel, Calif.

Wendell “Windy” Lewis Jr., who died just before Christmas, never recovered that billfold, which contained several family photos.

But earlier this month, a construction worker who was helping to renovate a barracks building on the post stumbled across a bi-fold wallet.  It contained plenty of clues to confirm that it belonged to Lewis.

The Tribune, a newspaper in San Luis Obispo, Calif., published a feature story about the wallet in its Sunday edition.  As evidence of the lightning speed that information can travel these days, Jill Lewis, widow of that soldier, learned about the story later Sunday.

“Yesterday, we laughed and cried all day,” Jill Lewis said Monday from her Lincoln home.

The wallet — full of black-and-white photos, a small blue address book filled with names and other treasures — was found when the construction crews removed a bathroom ceiling in Barrack Building No. 5104 during renovation work. They think it was hidden in a crevice.

As the camp’s museum researched the wallet’s owner, an obituary was found on the Internet.  Lewis died on Dec. 21, 2011, at age 79.

“It’s so sad that he passed away so recently. … He will never know we found it,” camp museum curator Gary McMaster said.

“But it will be so nice for his family to see it now, especially since it’s in such beautiful shape. Now they can have this wonderful thing to remember him by after all these years.”

The wallet is the most recent find at the camp, where about two dozen lost wallets that belonged to soldiers from the World War II era to the 1970s have turned up.

It’s common knowledge at the camp that wallets were often stashed away after being stolen by other soldiers who hid the evidence of their crimes in air ducts, under floorboards and behind walls in the rooms they shared while training for war.

“Not everybody in this world is honest, especially when they find themselves drafted and there’s problems at home and they need money,” McMaster said.

Lewis’ wallet, which McMaster says is one of the most pristine among those found recently, also contains his Army ID card from 1953, two American Red Cross water safety instructor cards and an authorization document to allow for money to be taken out of Lewis’s checks for his mother, Veronica Lewis of Lincoln.

Three pennies were found in the coin purse, something Jill Lewis finds intriguing.

“I thought those three pennies were remarkable,” she said.  “One for me, one for Cindy and one for Stephanie.  Try telling them Windy didn’t have a roll in this.”

Cindy Goodman and Stephanie Winter, both of Lincoln, are the Lewises’ two daughters.

Museum personnel who researched the wallet said Lewis’s full name, date of birth and hometown found on papers inside the wallet matched the information on the obituary from his hometown.

“Also, the obit cites his nickname Windy, and ‘Windy’ is written in the cover of his address book in the wallet,” McMaster said.

Armed with contact information after the news story was published in California Sunday, the museum planned to telephone Jill Lewis Monday and make arrangements to return the billfold and its contents.

With the Korean War raging, Lewis entered the Army as a private in January 1953. He was assigned to the Army’s special services as a lifeguard because he had background as a water safety instructor.

After the Army, Lewis graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University while working at State Farm Insurance. In 1961, he opened Spruce Up Men’s Clothing Store in downtown Lincoln, which he owned and operated for 17 years.

After closing his store, Lewis worked for the state of Illinois.

“From all the information in the obituary, there is no doubt that the wallet belonged to Mr. Lewis,” McMaster said.

The search has also sparked new hope that McMaster will be able to find the families of two other soldiers whose wallets were left at the camp. He keeps the wallets in a display case at the museum.

The names found inside the other two wallets are John E. Currie, born Oct. 20, 1932, and James H. Robbins, born on Feb. 1, 1928.

“We stand a better chance of taking this cold case and heating it up a little,” he said.

Tonya Strickland of The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, Calif., contributed to this story.