James Farrell and his brother Michael Farrell always had bright smiles on their faces, reflecting their profound warmth and care towards others. And it is how the people they encountered — from residents of their hometown Manhasset, N.Y., to James' fellow graduates of the Class of 2018, to the alumni of Penn men's lacrosse — remember the brothers most fondly.
“I just always think of their smiles,” junior defender Edward Arnold said. “Because it seems like everywhere I went, it was just glaring perfect smiles. It was infectious. (They were) just super charismatic people that I always knew would be influential to everyone around them.”
James played for Penn men's lacrosse from 2015 to 2018 and helmed the captaincy during his senior season. He tragically passed away on July 26, 2021, in a car crash along with his brother Michael, who was enrolled in the Villanova School of Business.
“It shook the entire community because if you ask anyone, they were the happiest kids alive,” Arnold said. “They knew them as the life at the party, the life of the town.”
Arnold's connection with the Farrell brothers began prior to arriving at Penn in their hometown of Manhasset, where they grew up as best friends.
In honor of his late friend, Arnold changed his jersey number to four, picking up the reigns of continuing Michael's legacy on the field.
“That was his number, from football to lacrosse, you name it. He was always wearing four,” Arnold said. “I wanted to be able to preserve his own legacy, being that I was so close to him.”
Graduate student midfielder Ben Bedard also honors the legacy and memory of the former team captain every time he steps out onto the lacrosse field. He, too, did so by changing his jersey number to the one that once belonged to James. Now every time Bedard takes to the field, he bears the number 19, as well as the memories of his former captain, across his shoulders.
“The guys in (James') class came up to me and asked me if I would wear it,” Bedard explained. “For them to trust me with that is special and something I don’t take lightly.”
James' selfless and hardworking attitude was the perfect fit for captaincy. He made sacrifices not asked of him, sometimes picking up the long stick to help the team.
“The reason why he was voted and named captain was because of the kind of person he was,” coach Mike Murphy said. “He was always so selfless and so positive.”
James shared his compassion with constant involvement in Young Quakers, the youth sports program started by Murphy in 2012 in conjunction with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, which James greatly enjoyed.
“He’s just one of the more personable guys — easiest guy to have a conversation with, a hard worker. You wanted to be around him at all times,” Bedard said. “He was just the kid that came into the locker room every day with a smile on his face. If you walked into that locker room and you didn’t have a smile on your face, he’d be the first person to put his arm around you and ask, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’”
The Farrell name will be remembered in the soon-to-be-annual matchup between Villanova and Penn, the Farrell Cup, bringing together the brothers' alma maters with a shared opportunity of remembrance and celebration on the field.
The idea for the Farrell Cup was spearheaded by Daniel Keating, father of Connor Keating, who had been on the Penn men’s lacrosse team with Farrell since they were both freshmen. Daniel took initiative by working with both schools to make the match a reality, and the inagural game took place on March 13.
“Every time we do something for him or around his name, I think it brings an element of positivity, even though we miss him a lot,” Murphy said.
Penn claimed the win in the first Farrell Cup with a last-second goal by senior attacker Dylan Gergar. But the most memorable moment was when the team hoisted the trophy inscribed with the quote: “An Annual tradition Honoring the unconditional love of Family, Friendship and the spirit of competition and commitment to team."
“For us to get to hold that trophy in the end, for it to still be in our locker room, is really special,” Bedard said.
The Farrell brothers' joyous personalities live on through the people who remember their passion for life, those fortunate to have encountered their compassionate spirit and selfless care firsthand.