When my wife got through reading the letter she came to me and said, “Thank you for letting me read the letter. It is as beautiful a letter as I have ever read. I don’t understand why a letter like that could have been so carelessly treated. We should do everything we can to find the young soldier. He needs to have the letter back, I agreed.
On the internet we looked up the name James Ferrell. The last name came from the envelope. There was a long list of James Ferrell. It took awhile but finally we found the James Ferrell the letter was sent to. I called him and he did not answer. I left a message for him and he called me back. I explained to him why I had called. I confessed to him that my wife and I had read his letter and that I hoped that he could forgive us. I said that if that was my letter I would want to have that among my most prized possessions. He told me that he didn’t mind and was glad that I had. He said that he had been looking for the letter for a very long time and didn’t know how he had lost it but until now it had been a great loss to him. He thanked me over and over again for calling him.
We only live about 100 miles from James so I suggested that in a few days my wife and I would like to meet him at a local restaurant to give him his letter and to find out more about Danny Boy. He too wanted to meet us and to share what he could about Danny Boy but he asked me if we wouldn’t mind meeting him at his home as he knew his wife would want to meet us too. I agreed with his plan.
We arrived at the address James gave us. His home was in a very nice section of a town not from from Gary Indiana. We knocked on the door and an elegant looking man and woman greeted us casually but tastefully dressed.He looked like he was in his late sixties or early seventies. He wasn’t very tall at most about 5’6″. He was dapper to say the least with thinning white hair and not much extra weight on him. His eyes were green and had a distinctive twinkle. He had a broad warm smile that made you feel very welcome indeed. His wife was taller than James. She had a natural beauty that didn’t need a lot of make up. She wore her medium long brown hair worn up in a bun. Her eyes were piercingly blue and had a sweet smile that like her husband made you feel very welcome like you had been close friends for years.
After introductions were made I gave him his letter. I told him how impressed and touched I was with the letter. My wife echoed similar sentiments. James wife had heard about the letter for a very long time but had never had a chance to read it. She was very anxious to read it.
James said, “I had received the letter at a time when I was struggling to get through boot camp and that the letter very much helped me through it. I took the letter with me to Vietnam reading it every day for the year that I was over there. The day that I lost my best friend when he stepped on a land mine I read the part about Diamond Jim’s death over and over until I fell in to a troubled sleep. Pa Pa’s letter helped me through the worst of my grief.”He thought that his best friend and Diamond Jim his grandfather would have very much liked each other. He said, “That letter was among my most treasured keepsakes. I lost it when I moved out of a house that I rented while going to college after I got out of the military. I can’t than you enough for returning it. It couldn’t have been easy to find me.” I told him it wasn’t that hard to find him. He offered me a great deal of money for returning the letter. I turned it down. I told him that wasn’t why I returned the letter to him.
I asked him about Danny Boy. He said that Pa Pa was the kindest gentlest man he had ever known. His grandmother was just as sweet and kind as his Pa Pa was too and that they were as close as any married couple could be. Pa Pa lived until James had been home on leave after Basic Training. He died the second day of his leave. My Dad closed the company down so that as many as wanted to could attend the funeral.
I had no idea how loved Pa Pa was before his funeral. So many wanted to attend that we had to have his funeral at an event center in Gary. Flags all over Gary were flown at half mast for a week, I estimate that most of the company was at my Pa Pa’s funeral. Of course we had so many veterans working for us and everyone of them knew Pa Pa and that he was a hero in WWII. We weren’t nearly as big then as we are now. We only had a dozen planes and were only in two other countries back then. We even had a senator at his funeral. Pa Pa’s graveside service was way down in Andersonville Georgia. There was a surprising number of people for that too. Grandma was never the same after Pa Pa died but she almost daily would tell anyone who would listen to her how blessed her life was, that she knew true love not just once but two times by two wonderful men. James’s wife sadly never met Danny Boy but she heard so many stories about him that she felt as though she had known him at least a little bit. She did have the privilege of knowing and loving his Grandma. Everyone who met his grandma loved her. His Grandma passed away just a few years ago and she is very much missed in and around Gary.
James said, “You know my Pa Pa liked to refer to his tattered and torn suit, his tattered and torn shirts and even him being tattered and torn. I never saw that in him. I saw a man who could never be tattered and torn. I never knew a man who was so determined or worked harder than my Pa Pa. My Pa Pa’s memory will wave long and hard beyond even my lifetime and when it waves it will wave without a tatter and without a tear. It is a banner for all those who do the best that they can for as long as they can. it is a banner of how important love is too don’t you think?”
With that we made plans to get together again leaving us with the feeling of warmth that new friendships always bring.