[Hpn] Search 4 Dad Ends @ Twin Towers:Searched 15 yrs 4 Father-[Formerly Homeless]

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Wed, 24 Oct 2001 15:20:38 -0400


-------Forwarded article-------

Wednesday, October 24, 2001
Virginian-Pilot <http://www.pilotonline.com>
[Hampton Roads, Virginia]
News/America's New War section
Man's search for dad ends at twin towers

By LINDA MCNATT, The Virginian-Pilot
October 24, 2001

--[Photo caption]
Richard Penny Jr., of Hampton, was told that his father, who disappeared 
years ago, had died in the World Trade Center attack.
Gary C. Knapp
--[End of photo caption]

For 15 years, Richard Penny Jr. had searched for his father.

Just over a week ago, when a reporter from a New York newspaper called, his 
search was over.

Richard Penny Sr., 53, had been collecting trash on a top floor of the World 
Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11. After battling mental illness for 
much of his life, the elder Penny was beginning to bring his life back 

``I had been looking for him since I was 18 years old,'' said Richard Penny 
Jr., a 33-year-old Hampton resident and a father of four. ``I've made 
countless trips to New York. I called everybody I could find with the last 
name of Penny.''

The elder Penny was a New York native. He was the only child of a loving 
middle-class family. He graduated as valedictorian from a Manhattan high 
school in 1966.

Richard Penny Jr. was about 2 years old when his parents separated. But he 
maintained contact with his father while growing up with his mother. ``I 
never heard a bad word in my life from my father,'' he said. ``My memories 
are nothing but good. We watched old movies together, took long walks. He 
was kind and soft-spoken.''

The younger Penny said everyone who knew his father said he had a brilliant 
future -- until, in his mid-20s, he began to suffer from depression and 
substance abuse. He got involved with the wrong people, his son said, and 
was involved in a robbery in 1975. After several months in prison, he 
retreated to his parents' New York brownstone.

``He basically became a recluse,'' Richard Penny Jr. said. ``I think he was 
just so ashamed of everything that had happened to him.''

Richard Penny Sr. remained in his parents' home until first his father, then 
his mother died. When the house was sold, his son said, a relative arranged 
for Richard Penny Sr. to live in a small apartment, but he stayed there no 
more than a couple of months.

Then he vanished.

Since his father's death, Richard Penny Jr. has found out that the man he 
searched tirelessly for was homeless for almost 10 years. He moved from 
shelter to shelter or slept on the streets.

He was remembered at a memorial service just before his son was notified as 
``soft-spoken, incredibly thorough.''

``He loved to work,'' a former counselor and social worker said in the 
memorial service in New York. ``Whether he slept on a Harlem shelter cot or 
dozed upright near Grand Central terminal, he rose each morning to polish 
the brass at St. James Church.''

If there's a lesson in this story, Richard Penny Jr. said, it's that there 
is never anything bad enough in anyone's life to separate family.

``The more people like my father that we can put a face on, the better it 
will be for everybody,'' Richard Penny Jr. said. ``They told me that more 
than 100 people showed up for his memorial service.'' Three years ago, 
Richard Penny Sr. joined a social outreach program and started getting his 
life back together after so many years. He had been working steadily at the 
World Trade Center almost that long.

``He wrote on his intake sheet in 1998 that the quality he was most proud of 
in himself was his love of learning,'' one outreach worker said at the 

The younger Penny praised the people in New York working with the victims' 
families. As soon as he got word of his father's death, he said, he and his 
wife took off for Manhattan.

They were taken to the World Trade Center site, where they were given time 
and privacy to absorb their loss. They were given the program of the 
memorial service with all the kind words about his father.

He talked with shelter workers and counselors who knew his father.

A receptionist at the center told him that Richard Penny Sr. had recently 
confided that he had a son and that he was about to get in touch with him 
again, once he finally felt his life was on track again. ``Now I know,'' 
Richard Penny Jr. said. ``I know he was thinking about me. I know he hadn't 
forgotten me. I actually feel like I can talk with him now, like he's 
finally with us.''

Reach Linda McNatt at lmcnatt@pilotonline.com or 222-5561.


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Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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