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Soup-can message from 1954 resonates decades later

MUNCIE, Ind. – Jackie Fager is alive and well and living in Marion, Ohio.

Of course, she’s Jackie Fager Clark now, and has been since marrying her husband, Tom, who she met while they were students at Purdue University.

But she is also still the girl who put a message in a soup can, covered it with aluminum foil and dropped it inside a wall in her bedroom back in 1954.

“I remember doing that,” she said in a phone call Wednesday. “When you’re 10 years old, you remember things.... You know, it doesn’t seem that long ago.”

As for the hint of mystery surrounding her act, she knows the root of that, too.

“I had been reading a lot of Nancy Drew,” she said of the legendary, fictional girl-detective.

Clark’s note, written on stationery from her father’s employer, the Hotel Roberts, and placed in the soup can, was found about 10 years ago by father-and-son contractors Mark West Sr. and Mark West Jr.

The proprietors of West-Mar Custom Builders, they were repairing the Fagers’ old fire-damaged home in Royerton when they found it.

They had kept the note and talked about it for years, before one of their customers, Kathie Onieal, suggested they take their quest to the newspaper.

Told later Wednesday that Clark had been located, West Sr. was fairly ecstatic.

“I thought at least I could track her family down,” he told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/19jkSUo ), “but I’d rather give it to Jackie.”

By the way, both Clark and the contractor had the same reaction to the way the story turned out: They said it made their day.

Recalling when she wrote the note, Clark remembered a window in her room was being replaced when she dropped the can in the wall.

“It was a little drafty and such,” she explained. “I can’t believe I didn’t put a shiny penny in there, something to commemorate the year.”

Now a mother of two and grandmother of one who taught school, subbed and did other odd jobs, she moved to her Ohio city, her husband’s hometown, 42 years ago in 1971.

“I can’t believe they kept it for 10 years,” she said of the can and the note the Wests found, noting she was alerted to the story and the find by a cousin who called and told her, “Your name is in the Muncie paper today.”

Since leaving Muncie she has seldom returned, finding the city remarkably changed from the place she knew as a girl, but she said she will likely come back again soon to get her long-forgotten letter from the Wests.

As for West Sr., who kept the idea of finding her alive for 10 years, he said he’ll have no problem moving on now that Clark has been located.

“I’m sure I’ll find another quest of some kind,” he said with a laugh.

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