Suffolk County

Purple Heart mystery solved as family of Boston man killed in WW2 identified

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — A nearly 80-year-old mystery in Attleboro is now solved, as the living family of a Boston Irish immigrant killed during WW2 is identified.

Attleboro Veterans Services Director Ben Quelle was trying to locate the family of Hugh Farren after his Purple Heart medal recently surfaced in the city.

Hugh Farren was killed in November 1943, when a Japanese submarine’s torpedo sank his aircraft carrier, the USS Liscome Bay.

At the time of his death, Farren was 39 years old.

He emigrated to Boston from Northern Ireland, settling in Dorchester where he lived with his sister.

Hugh Farren was a Boston Firefighter and was active in helping other Irish immigrants.

Somehow, Hugh’s Purple Heart medal, which was likely given to his sister in Dorchester, wound up in Attleboro at the home of a man who is now in hospice.

It was Attleboro Veterans Service Director Ben Quelle’s mission to find Hugh’s family so that his Purple Heart medal could be returned.

“We can’t even get close to repaying the debt. But what we can do is remember and honor,” Quelle told me.

Less than 24 hours after our story about Hugh’s Purple Heart aired, Hugh’s family started contacting him, some of them from Ireland.

Farren’s Bar is the northern most pub located in Northern Ireland.

Hugh Farren was born there.

Now, it is owned by Hugh Farren’s grandnephew himself, named Hugh Farren.

“I was named after him, so it’s nice to know that the guy your mother and father decided we’ll name him after this man, it’s quite a good name to have,” Farren told me in a Zoom interview from Farren’s Bar.

And Ben heard from Dennis Doherty, who lives in Michigan.

His grandmother was Ellen Doherty, Hugh’s sister. Period records incorrectly listed Ellen’s name as Helen.

“She was devastated when he died and unfortunately, she always blamed herself because she convinced him to come to Boston from Ireland. So, she blamed herself for him dying,” Dennis Doherty told me.

All these decades, Hugh Farren remains a hero.

A footbridge in Boston bares his name.

Now, with the return of his Purple Heart, for Hugh’s family, it’s an overdue homecoming.

“They went looking for us and they found us. I think that is respect enough,” Hugh Farren said.

“I’ve always been proud of Hugh. Proud that my great uncle, first of all, served in World War 2, and unfortunately was killed. He gave his life for our country,” Dennis Doherty said.

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