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Paul Coates

March 21, 2008 |  7:36 pm

March 21, 1958

Paul_coates A month ago I wrote a column concerning a mysterious medal.

About the size of a half-dollar, it had the embossed figure of a stork on its face side, plus the lettering "Wanstead High School." On the reverse was the inscription:

"Hurdles. Open. D. Farrell. 1927."

There was nothing unique about the medal. It looked like any medal any kid in any high school might win.

But the element of mystery about it came in the letter to me which accompanied it.

The letter was from Mrs. Eleanor Hatch of Hollywood.

She found the medal, she told me, in a small can which had been around her house for maybe 20 years. It was among a miscellaneous assortment of rusty nails, hooks and buttons.

"I never heard of D. Farrell," she wrote me, "nor have I heard of Wanstead high School."

She added that she had no use for the medal, but somehow couldn't bring herself to throw it away.

"That's why I'm sending it to you," Mrs. Hatch said. "In the hope that you can find its real owner. It might have some special significance."

I mentioned Mrs. Hatch's discovery and wish in this column, figuring that no one would claim it--but anyway, I'd made an effort.

1958_0321_smith_2 Immediately, it was obvious I was wrong.

The column ran the same day that a man named Donald Farrell made the papers by completing a simulated week's flight into "outer space" in a U.S. government experiment.

Lots of letters and calls came in asking if this man might be a descendant of D. Farrell, the 1927 hurdles champ.

There were other calls from other Farrells, plus two from persons who told me that Wanstead High School was located a short distance from London, England.

One call was from Bob Jarvis, president of the advertising firm of Prestige Inc. He told me that his friend, David Farrell, president of Trust Deed and Mortgage Exchange, thought the award-winning D. Farrell might be a long-lost relative.

Did I have any clues, he asked?

I mentioned the two calls about Wanstead High School being near London. And from there, Jarvis took over.

He cabled the London Times for an exact location of the school.

A reply came stating that there was a Wanstead County High School near London with the address: Redbridge Lane, Wanstead E. 11

Then Jarvis sent a cable care of the school's headmaster. Did they ever have a student name of D. Farrell? If so, did they have a current address on him?

The reply came this week, signed A. Ingram, Headmaster.

It read:

"Thank you for your telegram asking about D. Farrell, an old boy of this school from 1926-8.

"I am sorry to report that he was killed in the war.

"He was a Sgt. Observer in a Wellington Bomber killed in action Sept. 11, 1941. The plane was shot down in the Channel and his body washed ashore at Dieppe.

"The last address we have of his family was: Mr. W. Farrell (father) 50 Park Road, Kingston Hill, Surrey.

"Although I have only been headmaster since 1948 there are a few colleagues who remember him.

"I am sorry I cannot be more helpful. We are proud to have his name on our War Memorial."

When Jarvis phoned me yesterday, he said that Sgt. Observer D. Farrell was no relation to his friend, David Farrell.

Afterward, I called Mrs. Hatch. Again I read her the letter from London. With a certain sadness, she said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry to hear it."

"You knew him? You remember him now?" I asked.

"No," she said. "I still don't have any idea who he is or how he got his medal.

"But I'm sorry we're too late to get it back to him."


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