This Venice retiree wants
to tell you about his rock

Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 2:30 a.m.

At 88, Joseph Kraft of Venice leads a simple existence.

Each afternoon between routine doctor appointments, he meanders around his property in the Bay Indies Home Park, checking the soft, green lawn for weeds.

Nothing too out-of-this-world drops into the life of the New Jersey native and AT&T retiree, but every now and again, he wishes something would.

"When you get older like me, you feel like, if something big happens to you before you die, you can rest happy," Kraft said.

At 4 p.m. on July 5, Kraft, for the first time in a while, felt like a big deal. In between a palm tree and his mailbox post, he spotted a strangely shaped rock in the grass.

"I was disturbed by this," Kraft said, who described the rock as flat on one side, rusty and covered with little volcanoes.

Kraft looked around, bewildered, and gingerly bent down to pick it up. The cell phone-sized, 4-ounce stone felt warm in his clutch.

Maybe the sun was heating it up, he thought, but as he grabbed other shards of concrete nearby for comparison, they were all cool, and he was mystified.

He immediately thought one thing: meteorite.

"I just assumed that I really had something there," he said. "And I felt lucky, too. I could have really been killed by the darn thing if it had hit me."

Since Kraft did not own a computer, he tapped the Web-browsing resources of his neighbor, William Kennedy, who is also a retired Navy meteorologist.

Kennedy pulled up images of similar meteorites, leading an anxious Kraft to contact Michael Fauerbach, an astronomy professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

"I thought to myself, 'We'll see how far this thing goes,'" Kraft said. "I don't know what the value of this will be, but I hear some meteorites go for $100 or more."

Kraft has not scheduled the meeting with Fauerbach yet, as he and his wife of 64 years, Elizabeth, have been busy with physician visits. Until then, he is storing it in a plastic bag inside his home for safekeeping.

Every time he glances at the mystery rock, his imagination wanders. Maybe he could pass it onto his six sons as a family heirloom. Maybe it would end up in a museum. Maybe his picture would appear in a newspaper.

"I figured, I'm going to hold onto this thing," Kraft said. "I'm very happy to have picked something like this up before I die."