Sept. 10, 2003 - Wednesday was declared a Day of Remembrance for former Gov. Alexander A. Farrelly, marking the first anniversary of his death at the age of 78.
Events including a breakfast Saturday on St. Croix, a brunch Sunday on St. Thomas and a worship service Saturday evening at his parish on St. Thomas are scheduled to commemorate Farrelly's life and to raise money for a family outreach fund in his name at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.
But the activity with the greatest potential for keeping Farrelly's memory vibrantly alive, for everyone from those who knew him well to those who never knew him at all, came on Wednesday itself -- the launching of the Alexander Farrelly Web site. "A Life Is Celebrated, A Leader Is Remembered," the home page states.
Joan Harrigan Farrelly, the governor's widow, is in the territory for the events. On Wednesday afternoon, she chuckles as she views archival photographs of her late husband online from a computer in the office she is using temporarily at Government House on St. Thomas. "We're looking as some of the old pictures," she explains in a telephone interview.
The Web site is maintained by Omni, a company in Virginia where the Farrellys moved after he left office and where Joan Farrelly continues to reside. She worked long hours with its staff designing the content and selecting the material to be included, including the images. "It's very much a personal effort," she says. "I scanned a lot of the stuff myself and worked with Omni, helping them figure out how to do the lifeline."
Her personal favorite among the photos, she says, is a black and white image of a group of judges, the man who would become her husband among them. "He's with all these old judges" she says, laughing, then quickly adds, "but young is relative."
Another of her favorites is a head shot from his years in the early 1950s as a student at St. John's College in New York City that appeared in the school newspaper. "It doesn't even look like him in a way," she muses. "He looks like this very sharp dude with a part in his hair..."
She quotes from the caption, which states that Farrelly, "the only Negro among the 77 members of Pi Alpha Sigma, was elected president of the Latin American Fraternity at St. John's..." and that he also was "a member of the senior honorary fraternity, which limits membership to fifteen."
Joan Farrelly also recalls another photo, which she says shows him as a youth of about 14, soon after his mother had died. "He's in the graveyard with his father, and he's holding his trumpet," she says. But she cannot find the picture online; it may remain to be uploaded later. "There is still a lot of work to be done on the site," she notes.
The decision to create the Web site was made last year before her husband's death, she says. "He was not a computer person, himself, but he understood the power of computers," she says.
Anything that visitors to the Web site wish to download is there for the taking, she makes clear. "The Omni people wanted to know if I wanted stuff copyrighted. I said no, I wanted this to be for people to use it, to access it," she says.
The URL for the site is just about impossible to misremember. You have your choice of www.alexanderfarrelly.com, alexanderfarrelly.net, or alexanderfarrelly.org.
"We wanted to make sure no one else would have access to those sites, so we reserved them all," Joan Farrelly explains.
Those wishing to contribute newspaper articles, photographs, other mementoes or personal writings to be considered for inclusion on the Web site are invited to submit them. They may be e-mailed to Joan Harrigan Farrelly or sent by postal mail to Omni at 1608 Spring Hill Rd., Ste. 438, Vienna VA 22182.
Farrelly Milestone Fund
The Alexander A. Farrelly Milestone Fund, established in 1993 with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands on the occasion of the governor's 70th birthday, provides assistance for disadvantaged children and families in the territory.
"It is to assist youth and families -- in particular young children and babies, trying to ensure that mothers and fathers know how important it is for them to talk with, bond with and teach their children at a very early age," Joan Farrelly says. Recalling a comment by 19th century American abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, she paraphrased that it is "easier to work with children than to repair broken men."
The Milestone Fund makes grants available for a variety of projects through CFVI. "It's unrestricted," she says. "So if there is a need in one area, it will go to that area. People apply for funding, and the decision is made by the foundation board."
A fellow governor and friend of Alexander Farrelly's, L. Douglas Wilder, will be the guest speaker at the two fund-raisers this weekend. Wilder became governor of Virginia in 1990, the first African-American elected to that position in any state in the union. He and Farrelly, who was governor of the Virgin Islands from 1987 to 1995, were at the time the only black heads of government at governors' conferences.
The St. Croix breakfast will be held at Gertrude's Restaurant at 8 a.m. Saturday. Tickets are $30, and a few remain available; they may be obtained at the restaurant, also at Harvey's Restaurant, and from the Office of the St. Croix Administrator.
The St. Thomas brunch is set for 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort. Tickets are $50, and some also remain available. They may be obtained at the Community Foundation offices in Royal Dane Mall, Draughting Shaft in Havensight, A.Touch of Class in Rothschild Francis "Market" Square and at Nisky Pharmacy.
There also will be a special prayer service at Holy Family Catholic Church in Anna's Retreat at the 6 p.m. Saturday Mass.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in declaring Wednesday a Day of Rememberance said that Farrelly's passing "represents the loss of a Virgin Islander of great stature and notable significance ... whose life and career left an indelible mark on the lives of the people of the territory."
Turnbull's proclamation calls on the Education commissioner "to conduct appropriate ceremonies in the territory's schools" in honor of Farrelly, "including dissemination of biographical information of this outstanding native son."
One resource for accessing such biographical information, of course, is the new Farrelly Web site. Another is the University of the Virgin Islands online libraries archive, where the funeral booklet for Farrelly is posted.
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