EAST FISHKILL–Joe Troy had planned to surprise his sister, but he figured she might find out about it first on social media if he did not tell her the serendipitous news.
Mary (Troy) Foley got the call from her brother on Tuesday and now can’t wait to come back this summer to her native Fishkill to pick up the wallet she apparently lost 40 years ago.
Contractors replacing the ceiling in room 215 at John Jay Senior High School last week were surprised to find it as they removed an old tile.They promptly notified administrators, who then contacted East Fishkill police.
Turns out, Chief Kevin Keefe knows the family and connected with Mary’s brother, a town of Beekman resident, to locate her.
“We came down, and we went through the paperwork and the pictures, and it was very nostalgic for me,” Keefe said. “It was like stepping back into time when I was still here.”
The chief, also a John Jay alumnus, was classmates with Mary’s brother.
According to the parties involved–contractors, administrators and police–the wallet contained no cash.
Rather it was stuffed to overflowing with family photos, schoolgirl notes, a library card, working papers and other personal effects like a yellowed 10-cent check from New York Telephone Co.
“I don’t know whether or not to be embarrassed. I’m not really sure what’s in there,” Foley said on Tuesday right after speaking to her brother.
“I’m really excited, though. It’s just going to be so fun to see it and share with my kids. I didn’t know my husband when I was in high school, so he’ll get a kick out of it, I’m sure.”
Now married and living in St. Paul, Minn., Foley said she has no recollection of how it got away from her in 1977 when she was a sophomore.
“I probably thought it was an innocent thing and just got over it. I didn’t think anything suspicious of it. Maybe, somebody played a joke on me. I don’t think anyone would have been trying to be mean or steal it because I didn’t have anything to steal,” she said.
Her brother, who was a senior when it happened, described her as a popular, outgoing student with a “ton of friends.” Troy suspects the wallet ended up in the ceiling as a result of horseplay.
“Maybe, they popped a ceiling tile and threw it up there. How else would it have gotten there?” he said.
Paul Albanese, John Jay’s assistant principal, said he is inclined to agree.
“We assume that possibly it was a prank, or that it was a theft and someone was trying to hide it,” he said. “We’d like to think that’s not the case, but anything is possible. We’re really just happy that we found it and that it will be back in its rightful hands, even if it is 40 years later.”
Keefe said he, too, was pleased to use his sleuthing abilities to track it back to Foley.
As for the possibility it was a theft, the chief laughed.
“I don’t think that an investigation would be possible at this time, but if the person wants to turn themselves in, I’m sure the school can arrange lunch detention.”
Foley, meanwhile, said she can’t wait to see what’s inside and reconnect with the school.
“I loved everything about being a student at John Jay. I have really wonderful memories.”
By the way, Foley’s wallet wasn’t the only nostalgic thing found by maintenance workers and contractors in recent weeks.
Albanese laid out a display of the retro items found behind old lockers like soda cans, a “Welcome Back, Kotter” playing card, badges, coins, pens and an empty cigarette pack.
He plans to do something creative with the odd pieces for John Jay’s upcoming 50th anniversary. He also hinted that the school may consider planting some sort of time capsule in the ceiling as a future project.