A cross country trip to return family heirloom to WNY

Posted at 7:09 PM, Jan 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-05 17:29:16-05

Leo Farley Sr. died in 1978, at age 23, in a car accident. The Buffalo native had a wife a five children, but left behind little else when he passed away. His children ranged from eight months to six years old when dad died and they've spent most of their lives with little to remember him by other than a few photos floating around.

That is, until Leo Farley Jr. got an unexpected message from a total stranger living in Arizona.

Andrew Zukewycz was cleaning his .22 Remington rifle on Saturday when he noticed, for the first time, a name engraved on the stock. A little odd, since the rifle had been in his family for decades.

Andrew's father gave him the rifle when he was 7 years old and Andrew planned to do the same for his son when he got old enough.

The name on the stock? Leo Farley.

He found Farley Jr. on Facebook and sent him a message. Hoping to find out an interesting backstory for his family gun, Zukewycz quickly realized he was holding on to something much more important.

"[Dad] died fairly young so he didn't have a lot of possessions or a lot of things," explained Farley Jr. "And we were so young the memories we do have are scarce."

The rifle was one of the few things left that could connect Leo to the father he lost when he was only 4 years old.

"How could I not give him the gun? It's not my dad's signature," Zukewycz said.

Zukewycz was born and raised in Arizona, but his father used to live in Buffalo. It was then, in the 1970s, when he bought the gun.

Back then, times were tough for Farley Sr., a young father of five. His children said sometimes he would have to pawn his property off to help provide for the family.

40 years later, with the help of a complete stranger thousands of miles away, this WNY family was reunited with something more valuable than words could describe.

"It's crazy that all these years it was still around," Farley Jr. said.

On Thursday, Zukewycz dropped the gun off with Farley Jr. and his siblings after traveling all the way from Surprise, Arizona.

"It really hits home in the sense that I would want my kids to have something that was important to me if I passed away," Zukewycz said.

For Farley Jr. and his siblings, the rifle is something tangible they can hold and feel closer to the parent they lost so many years ago.

"Having this and being able to have a conversation with my dad, it just makes me feel so connected to him," Farley Jr. said. "I feel like I've always searched for something from my dad and now I have this. It's overwhelming even to hold something I know my dad held."