Turtle with unique mark -- boy’s initials -- found after 47 years

Lyndon B. Johnson was president, “My Fair Lady” swept the Oscars and Martin Luther King Jr. was leading marches across the South. The year 1965 was also when a 13-year-old boy in Pennsylvania found a box turtle, carved his initials and the year into its rock-hard shell, and then let the creature go.

He forgot about it until this week when his father, who still lives on the property, found a box turtle meandering on his land, turned it over, and recognized the writing on its plastron, or underside shell: “JC” and “1965.”

“I picked it up, and I thought ‘Oh geez, this is Jeff’s turtle!’” 85-year-old Holland Cokeley told KDKA, the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh. “It’s been here for 47 years, and it still has the same -- the same -- markings on it.” The turtle, about the size of a man’s hand, appeared to be in fine form as the elder Cokeley held it up for the camera to get a close look at the child-like scrawl on its shell.

Cokeley’s son, Jeff, was 13 and an avid outdoorsman when he first came upon the turtle. Jeff moved away from the area 35 years ago and now lives near Rochester, N.Y. He said he burst out laughing when his father emailed him photographs of the turtle.


The elder Cokeley, who lives in South Strabane Township, in southwestern Pennsylvania, was alerted to the turtle’s presence on his farm by a neighbor dog, which was barking furiously at something. He went to see what was agitating the dog and spotted the eastern box turtle, a common species in parts of the United States.

Eastern box turtles can live many decades in the wild, which is where the one with the engraved belly is, now that Holland Cokeley returned it to the woods around his farm.


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