- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - There are many reasons a message in a bottle or note on a balloon might never be found. It could be lost forever in the ocean, wind up somewhere remote or simply be overlooked as trash.

Defying those odds, a balloon released on Thanksgiving Day in Beckley in memory of a lost loved one made a 3,716-mile journey and was found in Cornwall, United Kingdom.

Jeanette Webb, of Glen White, said releasing helium balloons on special holidays for lost loved ones has been a tradition in her family since she lost her father in 2002.

On Thanksgiving, she released an orange balloon in memory of her son, Steven Webb, who passed away in October 2013, at the age of 37.

“Whenever I let the balloon go, I imagine Steven is getting it, like it’s something I am sending him. It gives me a peaceful feeling,” she said.

The balloon was found the morning of Nov. 30 by John Foster, who noticed something stuck in a hedge along his small farm near Coverack, United Kingdom.

In an e-mail to The Register-Herald, he said he thought it might have been a wind-blown fertilizer sack or trash that foxes had strewn around.

Attached to the foil balloon was a tag that read, “In Loving Memory of Steven Webb,” along with Jeanette Webb’s phone number.

Foster discovered the phone number was for a cell registered in Beckley and reached out to the newspaper for help. Although wary of scams, he said, if released from West Virginia, “its arrival here in the UK is an amazing event.”

Webb said she believes “it was meant to be.”

Her son helped her release balloons on special occasion in honor of his father. Those balloons have been found in neighboring states, but never has one been discovered so far away.

And she nearly forgot to release the balloons this year, she said. After the bustle of the Thanksgiving meal slowed and visitors left, she found the balloons.

“I told my husband we had forgotten to release the balloons for my dad and Steven, so we went out on the porch that night and let them go. He said, ‘They’re going to hit the jet stream and go far away.’ And Steven’s did,” she said.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Andrew Beavers, based in Charleston, said it’s not unusual for a balloon to travel such distances and jet streams average 100 miles an hour and can reach 150 miles per hour.

This balloon traveled about 1,200 miles each day, a rough average of 50 miles per hour, but for a family remembering their lost loved ones, the balloon’s journey defies logic.

“My son always helped me release balloons at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens when my husband passed away. We never realized how soon he would be buried there. I think it’s great one of Steven’s was found in the U.K,” she said.

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Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com

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