AMAZING TAG! Macfie gets dad’s military ID tag back … 40 to 50 years after they went missing

There were a few things of which Scott Macfie was certain when he became Kearny’s Police Chief on May 1 — long council meetings he’d have to attend, phone calls from the governing body, being the public face of the department and on and on.

But just a few days after he took office, something extraordinary happened, something so remarkable, it wouldn’t be believed if it were fiction. But this is far from fiction. It really happened. And soon you’ll see why the sheer number of coincidences make what happened to him so great.

Flash back a few weeks ago. After he was official sworn-in, The Observer had a front-page story with Macfie on Page 1. It was a given this story would be out front. But of course, there’s never any way to tell who might read the newspaper.

Now, keep in mind, Nutley is one of the town The Observer covers, so this part isn’t so surprising.

A Nutley woman called Rhonda Frob had long recalled having, thanks to her late father, metal ID tags bearing the name Thomas J. Macfie. It also included his service number and a John Street address in Kearny. Sadly, her dad, Warren Price, died in 2021. Frob estimates her dad likely found the tags sometime between 1974 and 1985.

Still, from time to time, once in the Internet age, she would Google two words. “Macfie” and “Kearny.” For years, knowing she had the tags, she could do nothing with them. But she held onto them even after her dad left this world.

Then, for no apparent reason, she decided to do one of these searches, once again. It was just a few weeks ago. This time, however, she finally got a hit.

As she read the results, one of the first to pop up was that of The Observer’s front-page story announcing the new chief’s appointment. Still unsure whether she finally had a match, she further searched and somehow found Mr. Macfie’s obituary, which listed Scott as a survivor. So she called the Kearny Police Department. At first, she spoke with someone in the chief’s office. Then Macfie called her back. Those tags, engraved with the name Thomas J. Macfie, indeed, once belonged to the chief’s late father.

Quite a reunion, isn’t it? Well, this is just the beginning. The wildness of this story is only beginning.

Let’s go back in time again.

Turns out many years ago, the Macfie family moved from Kearny to West Milford. When the Macfie family split up, for whatever the reason, the tags went somewhere. No one really knows how. But then, it was Frob’s family who found the tags.

Now, when some of the Macfies, including Scott, moved back to Kearny, Frob’s family purchased the home. In fact, Rhonda would up moving into the very same room Scott once occupied. But this was when he was in the fifth-grade — as Scott and family were back in Kearny.

The coincidences don’t end here though.

For many years, Frob lived in North Arlington and was a volunteer for the North Arlington Volunteer Emergency Squad — NAVES. It’s possible she went on a call or two to Kearny where Macfie was the assigned officer. And, the family also had a stop in Wayne, where, you guessed it, Mr. Macfie lived when others in the family moved back to Kearny.

“In fact, when I was on the squad, I wrote a story on it for The Observer,” Frob says.

And now, as if that isn’t enough, Frob also lived on the same street as Mr. Macfie did in that time she spent in Wayne.

Frob says she, a former EMT, and Macfie, a police officer, surprisingly had even more in common, some shared experiences, to boot.

“Aside from the same bedroom, we’d both go out to the frozen lake we lived near on our own,” Frob says. “We would also spend time out in the same woods. It was uncanny.”

In all, for Frob, this was all fortuitous. She wanted to find a way to close the chapter on the tags, something she was able to do a few weeks ago when she finally met the new chief at police headquarters on Laurel Avenue.

“We weren’t much different in so many ways,” she says. “For my dad, who was a truly great man, I am so happy I was able to reunite the ID tags with Scott. I know he would have been so happy, my dad.”

For Macfie, it was all so stunning, too, so much so he immediately reached out to The Observer, Mayor Carol Jean Doyle, his sister and others.

“It was such a surprise,” Macfie says. “The connections. West Milford, Wayne, here. And then finding me through The Observer. It all come full circle. Dad was very proud of his service in the Army.w”

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Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.