Scott McMurry got his first glimpse of Chicago's John G. Shedd Aquarium last week on the back of a postcard he should have received from his mother more than 50 years ago.
Now, the 71-year-old retired historian will see all the aquarium has to offer today, thanks to an expense-paid trip to Chicago.
"If you would have asked me two weeks ago, I would have said it would never happen to me," McMurry said. "It's sort of like winning the lottery."
The aquarium offered to fly McMurry in from Virginia and put him up in the city for a day after learning that a postcard of the facility, mailed by his mother in 1957, had gotten lost in the mail and only reached his hands last month almost 55 years later.
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The postcard surfaced April 18 in the mailbox of Elizabeth Fulcher, a 33-year-old Floridian who posted a picture of it on her Facebook page the next day.
Friends were astonished that a postcard with a 2-cent stamp, meant for a guy at 608 Clairmont Ave., in Decatur, Ga., had arrived at Fulcher's house on the 600 block of Clairmont Lane in South Daytona Beach, Fla.
"I instantly wanted to find out who it belonged to," she said. "It's a funny looking postcard."
Perhaps the funniest part, she said, was the first line of the note, which read, "We'll probably be home before this gets there."
After Todd Fulcher (who is unrelated to Elizabeth), saw her post on Facebook, he tracked McMurry down through an online social networking site and the White Pages. It took four or five phone calls before Todd Fulcher was finally able to tell McMurry the news.
"It was a totally unexpected, pleasant surprise," McMurry said. "I think the probability of this happening to any one individual must be one in a billion."
The U.S. Post Office doesn't know why the postcard took so long to arrive, but a spokesman said such cases of long lost mail pop up occasionally.
"Ultimately, even with all our technology . . . we don't have any way of finding out exactly what happened," said Mark Reynolds, a Chicago spokesman for the postal service.
After reading the postcard, McMurry suspects that his mother sent it to him while in Chicago on a business trip with his father. She died in 1991.
McMurry arrived in the city Wednesday and is scheduled to see the aquarium today.
"I'd never heard of the Shedd Aquarium (and) I have never been to Chicago except passing through . . . changing planes and whatnot," McMurry said. "(But) I'm gonna refrain from seeing the whole town in one day and just visit the aquarium."