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BY JEFF GAMMAGE
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)
PHILADELPHIA--The mystery began, Graham Farrell said in a phone call from England, when he opened a box that contained his late father's most important possessions.
Inside was a sealed envelope. And on it, scrawled in his father's elegant hand, was written: "Very dear to me."
Farrell, the sole son among six siblings, came across the box as he settled the estate of his father, Albert Edward Farrell, in 2003. But only recently could he bear to open it.
In the envelope he found three pieces of paper: A tattered invitation to a 1946 wedding--in Philadelphia, of all places. A black-and-white photograph of a couple and their children, dated 1953. And an old employment card from Canadian Pacific Steamships.
All three bore one name in common: Kay Bonner, the woman to whose wedding Farrell was invited.
The younger Farrell, 64, doesn't know Bonner, why his father kept these mementos, or what connections they signify. He wrote to The Philadelphia Inquirer in hope that a news story might jog memories and offer answers.
"The whole thing intrigued me," Farrell said from his home in Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles.
Farrell, who serves as a justice of the peace for the City of Liverpool, was close to his father. And his father was proud that the son of a working-class family should be employed in the service of the queen. The elder Farrell worked as a Liverpool bus driver, a job he took after the end of World War II.
'HE LOVED AMERICA'
During the war he'd forged a tie to the United States, enjoying the banter and friendship of American soldiers he met while serving in the Merchant Navy.
"He was on the Queen Mary when they were bringing veterans back to the U.S.," Farrell said. "He loved America."
His father regularly went ashore in New York, and "I'm almost sure he mentioned he'd been to Philadelphia," Farrell said.
A MYSTERY IS BORN
The senior Farrell lived alone after his wife died. And when he died at age 80, his son found his ditty box, a small wooden container where seafarers keep important papers.