When Werner Ferrone received a call Feb. 16 that his father's wallet had been found, he was more than a little skeptical.
After all, the wallet had been missing since the late 1930s, and Ferrone's father, Benjamin, died in 1982. But the next day, the younger Ferrone, who lives in Abingdon, flew to New York to retrieve the wallet and shake the hand of the man who found it.
"I thanked him because at first I didn't believe him," said Ferrone, 52. "My wife said I was a bit of a jerk to him."
The story began more than 60 years ago when Benjamin J. Ferrone, then 22 and living in New York, visited the Paramount Theater in Peekskill, N.Y. His son said he believes his father's wallet was stolen and the thief stripped it of cash and dumped it.
"Whoever stole it stuffed it down in a crawl space under the floor to get rid of the evidence," Ferrone said. "Ironically, that theater has been renovated many times over the years, but that area had never been remodeled."
On Feb. 13, Curtis St. John, production manager for the theater, now known as the Paramount Center for the Arts, found the wallet while cleaning under a stairwell.
Using the Social Security card in the wallet, St. John and a local reporter tracked down the younger Ferrone, vice president of project development for Parker's Point Custom Waterfront Homes, and called him.
Ferrone wasn't buying what he thought they were selling.
"I've had people call me and pitch magazines and stuff, and I thought that's what they were trying to do," he said. "I told my wife, 'It's a scam,' but she said, 'You're wrong; it's real.' "
Producers from the "Today" television show heard about the story and brought Ferrone and St. John to New York, where Ferrone received his father's wallet Thursday.
Last week, Ferrone looked over the contents of his father's tattered, brown leather wallet.
It contained a yellowed driver's license for "Bennie Ferrone," complete with an incorrect birth date -- evidence that his father had lied about his age to acquire a job -- and a registration for a used 1929 Model A Ford. "It really brings to life all of the old stories my dad used to tell me," he said.
Pub Date: 2/27/99