Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017, 5:30 PM
A broken portable DVD player and a patched-together GPS were stolen from a black Chrysler Town & Country parked along the 4400 block of Vista Street in Mayfair one night last week.
These objects of modest monetary value were big losses for a still-reeling family.
Heather Finnerty O’Neill says the DVD player belonged to her only child: Amanda Hopkins, who in 2014 died from colon cancer at age 23.
The GPS was the last gift Hopkins bought for her stepfather, Albert O’Neill.
The DVD player no longer could play movies, but had sentimental charm: When Heather and Albert O’Neill plugged the power cord into the minivan’s cigarette lighter, their daughter’s name would flash across the small screen.
On long car rides along the Atlantic Coast, when O’Neill would crave her daughter’s presence, she’d reach for that DVD player. “I would turn it on just to see her name,” Heather said after Tuesday night’s theft.
Albert spent a small fortune replacing power cords on the GPS, and he’d sit in the driver’s seat of the minivan in while it was in park, wiggling the wire back and forth in the socket, patiently waiting for a sign.
“If you jiggle it, jiggle it, jiggle it, eventually it would come on,” Heather said. “I mean, we really didn’t even use it. It was just the point.”
When Heather and Albert approached the vehicle Wednesday morning, they noticed scratches around the passenger door’s handle and a medal bar left in the street. Heather had moved to the Northeast a decade ago, she said, to escape Kensington, to escape street crime. In Mayfair, she didn’t think to bring inside her rowhouse the few items in her minivan.
The malfunctioning electronics were for them intimate objects that brought feelings of safety and security. And home.
Heather turned to social media last week, posting on the Mayfair Matters Facebook page. Maybe, she thought, it was some stupid kid in the neighborhood. Maybe somebody knows whoever took her broken treasures.
“They meant more to me then anyone could imagine,” she wrote. “I hope whoever you sell them to has my daughter’s name etched in their memory …
“To you it was probably crap,” she added, “but to me it had greater meaning. Merry Christmas.”
Heather matter-of-factly recites the story of losing Amanda. After Amanda graduated from Franklin Towne Charter High School, she lived at home while taking classes at Community College of Philadelphia. She was working part time at BJ’s Wholesale Club when she was diagnosed.
The cancer started in the colon. It spread to her liver, then lungs. She fought back, embracing treatment. She was doing well, doctors were hopeful.
And then, “it took over,” Heather said.
Heather left for work on a Monday, and her husband called her on her cellphone a few minutes after she arrived. “You need to get a ride home,” he said.
After Amanda died, her mother held onto the DVD player that she used to watch when Albert drove down to Florida. The women hated the long rides, so Amanda would screen The Lion King when she was younger, then Adam Sandler movies when she got older. The last few trips together the screen flickered, the movie would stop playing.
Three years after Amanda’s death, Heather has kept her daughter’s clothes and jewelry. She couldn’t bear to get rid of the broken electronics, too.
“I know it probably sounds silly to other people,” she said, “but to me, it broke my heart.”