First of all ... thank you to all who shared suggestions with me. This site never ceases to amaze.
Well, I'm home. Spark was the first thing I checked ... it was strong. I really thought the timing of the car dying had to be linked to the fuel scenario. When it quit, spark was the first thing I checked ... it was strong. Then I checked the battery, walked back to the trunk and jiggled the neg terminal cause that's always the loose one ... just visually looked at the positive ... big mistake.
Turns out the problem was a loose positive terminal connection. It was good enough to turn the starter, good enough for the lights and radio to work BUT, it turns out there are some wires that attach to the positive post and they were loose ... they apparently provide the power to the fuel pumps. After replacing the fuel filter without curing the prob I did a voltage test on the fuel pumps thinking maybe the relay ... nothing. I wanted to be sure the volt meter wasn't bad, so I went back to the trunk to test it on the battery ... it was then I discovered the loose connection. Tightened it down, put the key in and she fired right up. Go figure. I still don't understand how everything else could work and the loose connection only impacted the fuel pumps.
Just goes to show you ... don't overlook the smaller items assuming the worst. Be thorough and methodical in your trouble shooting ...you might just get a pleasant surprise.
A very pleasant trip home ... every highway mile behind the wheel of this car is a pleasure and a joy. The little aggravations of a 100k mile plus car are soon forgotten when the Mustang riding your bumper on the on-ramp waves the white flag out the sunroof as he finally catches and passes you about a mile down Highway 5 ... after you've backed off to legal numbers.