James Boozer was a World War II veteran, and he had worked at the Campbell’s Soup Company in Camden for 40 years, retiring in 1998. He and his wife, Marion, had been married since 1948. The couple had two children, but their son had died of a heart attack a few years before. Although the couple was dealing with some health issues of their own — James had survived a heart attack in 1984 and Marion was recovering from a stroke she had in April of 2006 — they were still living in their own home and enjoying their golden years together. But all of this changed one summer day when James walked away from their West Philadelphia home and never returned.

June 21, 2006, was a hot and humid day in Philadelphia. James, who was 80-years-old had a doctor’s appointment at Wills Eye Hospital that day, so he was up early and left his home around 8:30 am. He walked the short distance to the train station and waited for the train that would take him into Center City. It was a trip he had made numerous times before, but on this particular day, something went wrong and James was never seen again.

When James hadn’t returned by noon, Marion began to get worried. She called his doctor’s office, thinking that perhaps his appointment had run late. The receptionist confirmed that James had been there earlier that day, but had left around 11:30 am. Marion waited uneasily, growing more worried with each passing hour. Finally, late that afternoon, she called 911 and reported her husband missing.

Marion told investigators that James needed daily heart medication and didn’t have it with him, and he had also recently been diagnosed with dementia. He was very familiar with the public transportation system in Philadelphia, but Marion worried that he may have become confused and perhaps gotten off at the wrong stop. He had a habit of falling asleep in the afternoon, and she was afraid that he may have fallen asleep on the train and ended up outside of the city.

Normally, Marion would have made the trip with James, but her recent stroke prevented her from leaving the house. James was a very shy man who would not talk to anyone he didn’t know, and she knew that if he had gotten lost, he most likely wouldn’t have been comfortable asking anyone for help. If he had missed his stop on the train, or if he had gotten onto the wrong regional rail line, it was possible he could have ended up in the suburbs, with no idea how to make it back to West Philadelphia.

Investigators realized the seriousness of the situation. They called all the hospitals and medical examiners in the area but had no luck. The family had fliers made up, and they posted them throughout the city. They also made calls to all the area nursing homes, hoping that James had somehow ended up at a facility, unable to remember his name or address. Although James carried very little cash, he did have identification, his public transportation pass, and several medical insurance cards in his wallet. If he had ended up in a hospital or nursing home, they should have been able to quickly determine who he was as long as he still had his wallet with him.

As days passed with no sign of the elderly man, his family feared the worst. If he had been taken to any kind of facility, they would have gotten a phone call by now. The fact that they hadn’t meant that either James was still out on the streets somewhere, or that his wallet had been lost or stolen. Investigators continued making phone calls, but there were no reports of any unidentified men in any of the area hospitals, nursing homes, or morgues.

It has been almost 15 years since James was last seen, and neither police nor his relatives believe he is alive. They would still like to know what happened to him and hope to be able to give him a proper burial.

James was last seen wearing a long-sleeved thermal shirt under a red and blue short-sleeved plaid shirt, tan pants, a tan jacket, brown shoes, and a white cap. He was also wearing a Timex watch and wire-framed eyeglasses. He was a black male, about 5’11” and weighed 128 pounds when he went missing. He had brown eyes and gray hair and was missing his upper right front tooth. It is possible that he ended up in a suburb of Philadelphia, and may have appeared to be disoriented or lost. If you have any information about James, please contact Philadelphia Southwest Detectives at 215–686–3183.

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