Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008

Lost Contact in 1972 – Reunited by Chance in Afghanistan

It took going to the frontlines in Afghanistan for two cousins to meet again.

Richard Lewis, 49, and Sonia Briggs haven’t seen eachother for 35 years.

Both grew up in the Rhonda Valley area (UK) but when Sonia moved to another place and then Richard did, they lost contact.

While on tour with the Royal Naval Reserve Richard then bumped into Sonia by chance.

“Sonia and I go way back; she is one of five kids, I am one of seven and I was born in Gelli, where my grandmother lived.

Since being reunited with her in Kandahar, I have had contact via email and social websites with a whole side of my family I didn’t know existed.”

Sonia, a mother of four, made headlines in 2008 when she took an unpaid 6 month leave from her job in order to serve. She’s one of the oldest people to be active in the service in Afghanistan.

Monday, Nov. 24, 2008

Adoptee Reunited with Mother Via Webcam Reality Show

Huston’s life story doesn’t begin in Buffalo, Minnesota.

He and his wife Kerry lived there and grew up there. But Huston is from Korea.

His biological father was an American soldier.

His father was to die later on in the Vietnam War.

His mother, too poor to raise him by herself, decided to give him up for adoption.

In 1971 he was adopted by a family living in Minnesota. Two Korean adoptees not really a surprise: Minnesota is the one place in the world with the most Korean adoptees. There are more than 13,000 Korean adoptees.

In the USA Minnesota is considered as one of the most progress states for adoptions.

Helped by an understanding teacher, Huston soon took his place in society.

But once he had Mary and he held his own daughter for the first time he realized what his mother must have gone through to give up her only child.

He started to look for his mother.

For 10 years this was without any success.

But then he appeared on a popular Korean television show.

It’s the format over reality TV show where Korean adoptees give their story in the hope that their parents are watching.

Huston appeared via a WebCam. Seven days later his birth mother was found.

In October he appeared again via Web cam on the television show and they were reunited, seeing each other again for the first time in 37 years.

This December they will be reunited in person.

Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008

World War II Buddies, One Presumed Dead, Reunited After 70 Years

In 1941 in a fierce firefight in Libya, Harry’s tank was destroyed by a direct hit.

Once the site of the wreckage could be inspected the body was found…

Everybody thought Harry Finlayson was dead; a military funeral was held for the loss of the brave soldier and his wife was awarded a widow’s pension.

Sgt. Gerry Solomon was among the grieving. He was a good friend of Harry.

Gerry was stunned then to read an account written by Harry’s daughter in the military magazine stating that the demise of her father was greatly exaggerated. Her father was very much alive.

Harry and Gary have been put in touch with each other. They hardly recognize each other after all these years.

”’We were great friends in the desert and I had a photograph of him and I by the pyramids. We chatted for one and half hours. Oh yes, he was surprised – he said, “I thought you were dead!”

As it turned out Harry’s radio equipment had broken down in mystical for retreat and kept on fighting until his equipment gave up and he and his three comrades were captured.

”’The driver said we were running out of petrol so I said: “There’s our lines, go like mad’

‘But one of their tanks hit my tank and blew the engine right out of it and we were surrounded by Germans, so I was taken prisoner.”

He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war.

Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2008

Owners get stolen car returned, 14 years later

A stolen car has been returned to its rightful owner after being missing for 14 years.

Milos and Spomenka Jokic from Bosnia left their car on a Belgrade street during a holiday in 1994.

When they returned hours later, they discovered their Mark II Golf was missing.

Fourteen years later, the Bosnian couple was surprised to receive a knock on their door from a police officer who said they had recovered the car.

During a routine roadside check, police realized the car was stolen after they ran a trace on it.

Milos says the car drives as well now as it did before it was stolen.

Monday, Jul. 14, 2008

Friends meet up after 38 years

Two Shropshire school friends who had not seen each other for 38 years renewed their long-lost friendship after meeting up at the 80s concert held in Shrewsbury Quarry.

Pauline Kemp, of Ketley Bank, Telford, and her best friend in school Dorothy Chipchase, of Castlefields, Shrewsbury, last saw one another in March 1970 but managed to get back in touch through the Friends Reunited website.

Pauline, who attended the Here and Now: Magic of the 80s concert on Saturday with her husband Martin as a birthday present, said herself and Dorothy, both 53, had rolled back the years by sharing their memories at the event.

She said: “We were both at Meole Brace Secondary School and then she left at 15 while I was a bit younger and spent my last two years at Church Stretton School doing a CSE.”

She added: “We lost touch and hadn’t seen each other for years and then one day I had an e-mail come through and it was her.

“She had found me on Friends Reunited and she phoned me and asked me if I remembered her and I said ‘of course I do we were best friends in school’.”

Dorothy said it had been a fantastic reunion and said they now planned to keep in touch regularly.

She said: “It was brilliant and the concert was excellent as well. She recognised me straight away anyway.

“It was really strange seeing her after such a long time. We’re going to meet up again and are definitely going to stay in touch.”

After leaving school Pauline, who is originally from Condover, later moved to Kidderminster and then Telford and has worked at the Asda store in the town for the past 15 years.

Dorothy, on the other hand, has lived in various parts of the country including Suffolk and York, before returning back to Shrewsbury with her husband who works for the prison service.

This article was posted on July 14, 2008 a

Wednesday, Jul. 9, 2008

After 21 Years, Father Reunited With His Daughter

For 21 years Peter Luddy was left to stare at a photograph of the son and daughter who left for a brief vacation with their mother to her homeland of Austria and did not return.

Those 21 years passed quickly, Luddy said this week, only days after his 22-year-old daughter Justina Linder cleared the gates of immigration at Boston’s Logan Airport a week ago Tuesday. Luddy said he was holding up the photograph of his son James, just two-and-a-half years old, and Justina, eight months, in hopes of being able to recognize his grown daughter.

“The last day I saw her she was a bundle of joy,” Luddy said. “That time has gone very quickly now that she’s here. “I missed a lot of years, but having been with her a week and it’s almost like she had never been gone …now she’s talking back to me.”

Luddy and his first wife, Christina Linder, who worked as an au pair for a wealthy family in New York City, separated and divorced and he was told not to come visit his children. Luddy said he made efforts to stay in touch, sending Christmas presents to the kids through his wife’s family. When Justina Luddy was 10 years old her mother took legal steps to change the kids name to Linder.

Over the years Luddy has made efforts through both the state department and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the agent of the Austrian government facilitating child support payments, to contact his children.

“I went to court and wanted to talk about my rights as a father,” Luddy said. “I always wanted to pay the child support.”

But Luddy, a former selectman was stonewalled. This past winter Luddy said he received a letter from the Austrian government about his son James.

“I got scared, it wasn’t written in English. I thought he might have gone to war and something happened.”

Luddy contacted his ex-wife’s family and they said James was ok. The letter turned out to be an announcement to Luddy that he had met his financial obligations and no longer had to pay child support.

From that point, Luddy said he began pursuing contact with his former wife in effort to communicate with his children. He said when he reached Christina she yelled at him for five minutes.

“I said the phone goes two ways and one of us could have communicated better,” Luddy said.

That phone call led to a quick response from his daughter, who said she wanted to come to America and meet her father.

“The moment she said she wanted to come see me, I was excited,” Luddy said. “She wrote me an e-mail and said ‘a stone has fallen from my soul.’ Waiting for her for three hours at the airport after those 21 years was like an eternity.”

“I thought a lot about him and would it have been better growing up in America,” Justina Linder said on Monday. “Yes, I knew he was here and wanted to get in contact with him growing up, but my mom said no.”

Luddy said he has learned a lot about his daughter in the past week. He said his life has been an open book and that holds true for his daughter. “She’s been very honest with me,” Luddy said.

In an effort to help define her life, Linder has put together an album of photographs chronicling milestones and, she said the second half of the album will be filled with her experiences here with her father.

Linder has been out and about in Harwich and it is quite different from her home in Hohenems, Austria, a mountainside village near the border of Switzerland, where her grandfather is a sheep herder.

“The gardens are perfect and there are no papers or litter in the streets,” Linder said of Harwich. “The people are also very friendly here.”

Luddy said many people have stopped him and his daughter in the streets to congratulate them on the reunion. Luddy said his daughter asked him at one point if he paid them to make those comments.

Justina’s older brother, James Linder, recently moved to Los Angeles and is also planning a trip east to visit with his new found family. Luddy’s daughter from a second marriage, Katrina, now 13 years of age, informed her father and half sister she had communicated with her half brother the previous evening on MySpace.

Katrina was excited to finally meet her half sister, explaining she learned of her existence when she was a little girl and often asked if Justina would ever come and see her.

“I said if you say enough prayers they will come,” Luddy said.

“It’s really good,” Katrina Luddy said. “I love my sister and I can’t wait to meet James. I thought I’d be older, 18, and be going to meet them.”

Linder is here for at least the summer and she has brought her best friend Jackie Dorn with her. The group has already made a visit to Leo Cakounes’ farm and done some horseback riding. On Monday, Linder, who grew up on a farm, wanted to make another trip to the farm to ride a horse and work with the animals.

“I will stay until I become homesick and then I must go home,” Linder said. “But I will come back every year to America. Next time I will come with my boyfriend.”

Luddy said he has called Austria again to talk to his former wife.

“I wanted to thank her for doing such a good job raising Justina,” he said. “Once my son comes here my life will be complete.”

Father reunites with his daughter after 8 years

REMBAU: “It is the most meaningful day of my life.” This was all K. Naga Jothi could say when she was reunited with her father yesterday. She was 10 when she ran away from home.

Now a young woman of 18, she was in tears when she saw G. Karthik Kesarao who had come from Johor Baru to the private Vivekenanda Home near here to take her home.

Naga, who said she ran away because of problems with her stepmother (her parents divorced when she was a year-old), spent the last eight years at various government children’s homes.

“I am so glad that I have found her. The last eight years of my life have been miserable,” said Karthik.

Also present at the reunion were Karthik’s wife K. Gunavathi 36, and son Mageswaran, nine.

Karthik said he had sought the help of various bomoh and mediums to look for his daughter.

“All they told me was that she was alive. Deep down, I knew that I would be reunited with her one day,” he said, adding that he did not lodge a report as Naga had run away from home several times before.

Karthik said he would enrol Naga for skills classes so that she could apply for a job later. However, the first thing he would do when they got back to Johor Baru was to get her an identity card.

He would also be holding thanksgiving prayers.

Last Friday, The Star reported that Naga was pining to be reunited with her family. The story was picked up by a vernacular paper and the link established after a radio station deejay contacted Karthik.

Friday, Jun. 6, 2008

Long-lost cousins reunited after decades

A SEARCH for the past unearthed a future of friendship for these long-lost cousins.

When Yvonne Anderson enrolled on an evening class to trace her family tree she was hoping to delve into the past and discover her ancestors.

What she was not expecting to find was a cousin she never knew existed – sitting across the table from her on the very same course.

And she discovered that she and cousin Joyce Bell had grown up just a few miles away from each other in Newcastle’s East End, but their paths had never crossed.

And as the pair chatted they realised they’d both grown up in the East End and now live just a few miles away from each other.

Mrs Anderson, a 61-year-old widow and grandma-of-two, said: “I started the ‘trace your family tree for beginners’ course at Fenham Library in January.

“At our first class we introduced ourselves and said which family name we were going to research. I was looking into the name Greenall, from Cumbria, and the lady sitting opposite me said she was looking for that name too.

“At the time we just laughed and said ‘I wonder if we’re related’, but we were amazed to find our grandfathers were brothers, making us second cousins.

“We were about six weeks into the course before we found out we were related, but the more I saw Joyce the more I thought she resembled my auntie.”

Mrs Anderson now meets up with her new-found relation every Saturday morning at the library where they are working to produce an online family tree.

And after discovering just how similar their lives have been, they are surprised their paths had not crossed sooner.

Mrs Bell, a 68-year-old widow and mum to Glenn, 41, and Joyce, 43, was born and grew up in Walker, while Mrs Anderson spent the first part of her childhood a stone’s throw away in Byker, before her family moved to Fawdon when she was nine.

Mrs Anderson now lives on Etal Park Estate and Mrs Bell lives just a few miles away in Blakelaw – just one street away from Mrs Anderson’s only child, Kelly, and her two children, Keelan, three, and baby Kaila.

Mrs Bell said: “It’s just incredible we found each other; lovely really, and we will definitely keep in touch.

“We have started a more advanced family history course and we’re going through library archives, army and war records and lots of books.

“It can be quite tricky, but I think I’ve found my great-grandparents and I’ve gone back as far as 1840. In those days not everyone could write properly, so the records we’ve found are not always that clear.

“It’s been so interesting and I’m very pleased I started the course. I joined out of sheer curiosity. I’ve always liked looking at local history.

“It would be great if our story could inspire other people to look into their family history. It’s been a lot of fun and some people may find relatives they never knew they had, just like us.”

Mrs Anderson has now started to produce the family tree on the website Genes Reunited and hopes to keep adding to it.

The women’s story has delighted the staff at Fenham Library.

Caroline Miller, head of adult learning for Newcastle City Council, added: “There are all sorts of benefits to be gained from an adult learning course.

“They can help you catch up on skills not learnt at school, to improve your job prospects or they could just be for a bit of fun.

“Joyce and Yvonne’s story is the first time I’ve heard of someone uncovering unknown family members.”

Thursday, May. 15, 2008

Family Reunited After 6 Years Apart

A family is finally reunited after spending six years half the world away from each other. We first told you about Joseph Shaka’s family in October right here on Channel Six News. He’s a pastor from Nigeria who moved to Wichita Falls to make a better life for his family.

He was randomly selected in 2001 for a visa lottery to the states. He wanted to bring his wife and five children with him from Nigeria, but getting their visa approved and coming up with the money took some time.

“A tormented time,” Joseph said.

Last Wednesday the children finally got a chance to put their arms around their Father again.

“Seeing my dad again is the greatest thing,” his oldest daughter, 14 year old Blessing Shaka said, “We are here now, we are very happy to be with him.”

Lynda Myracle is a missionary who sponsored the Shaka’s. Along with the community’s help, Myrcle said Congressman Mac Thornberry’s office assisted with the immigration process and worked with the embassies.

“They have worked with this family for a little over 2 years and were really instrumental in getting them here,” She said.

Six years of ups and a lot of downs of separation was worth their happiness today.

“We have finally made it. They are here right now since Wednesday. We’ve been enjoying ourselves. Thank you, Thank you. We are grateful,” Joseph said.

The next step is getting the children ready for the 2008-2009 school year.

Wednesday, May. 14, 2008

Daughter reunited with mum

A CARDIFF mum has been reunited with one of the three daughters taken from her 22 years ago.

Jackie Saleh is now nursing her daughter Rahannah, 26, through the same ‘tug-of-love’ heartbreak she suffered when her three eldest children were taken to live in Yemen by their father.

Jackie, who has fought since 1986 to be permanently reunited with her daughters, said Rahannah had been forced to leave her own child Anisa, four, behind in the Middle Eastern state.

She said: “She’s come all this way but she’s had to leave her daughter. From Page 1

“She’s heartbroken. I know how she’s feeling because I was in the same situation. I don’t know what we can do.”

Jackie, a lunchtime supervisor at Hywel Dda Junior School near her home in Cambria Road, Ely, said her daughter had appeared unannounced on her doorstep at 2.30am yesterdaymon after fleeing her husband when the relationship broke down.

The 46-year-old had seen her daughter only twice since she was taken to Yemen by father Sadeq Hussein Saleh.

The last time was nearly eight years ago when Rahannah and her sister Safia came to stay for a couple of months over the summer.

All three of Jackie’s children were kept in Yemen by their father, and eventually married Yemeni men. She has only ever seen the third daughter, Nadia, for 10 minutes in a snatched meeting at her school when she travelled to the Middle East to track the children down.

Rahannah, who barely speaks any English, told the Echo she was happy to see her mother again but broke down in tears on the telephone when she was asked about her own daughter, Anisa.

Jackie is now hoping that she can get the authorities to help bring Anisa to live in the UK but said so far the British representatives in Yemen had been unable to help her in her own battle.

She said: “Something’s happened. She’s come over here with hardly any personal possessions.

“It was totally out of the blue, I wasn’t expecting it at all.

“We’ll have to see what happens now because it’s pretty difficult. She’s left her daughter which she’s upset about. He said she couldn’t take the girl. She’s said she’s not going back. She was quite upset when she came here.

“I’m hoping now that I can get the British Embassy involved and get her daughter here.”

Jackie’s husband Alan Freeman, who has supported her in her battle to keep in touch with her estranged children, said Rahannah had endured a tough, four-day trip with little money to get to the United Kingdom.

He said: “We fought for 16 years to get the children back but it’s the first time we’ve got close to having one of them back full time. We lost all contact with them. We thought that was the end. We last spoke to her seven years ago. She’s put on a little more weight but no, she hasn’t changed.

“She knocked at the door and I leaped out of bed and she was crying ‘dad, dad’ and I said ‘it’s Rahannah knocking’.

“She’s run into the house crying and her mum’s all upset.

“It’s brilliant. To be honest, it’s something that her mum’s dreamed of and something we’ve always talked about. We never dreamed it would actually happen.”

Tuesday, May. 13, 2008

Long-Lost Class Ring Returned

It’s likely been years since Floyd Darling of Laceyville has thought much about the Elk Lake class ring he used to wear indicating that he was a member of the Class of 1982.

The ring turned up missing when Floyd was serving with the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton, California, the October after his graduation.

But due to an odd turn of events, the ring was returned to Floyd Tuesday afternoon and, as you might imagine, Floyd, who’s a truck driver for Laceyville’s R.G. Brown Refuse Company, couldn’t quite believe what he saw.

It was Springville business owner Lisa Burger who initiated a chain of events that led to the discovery of Floyd’s ring after she lost her own Elk Lake ring and began a search on the internet at a web site called classringfinder.com. Lisa owns a company called Endless Mountains Laser, which specializes in engraving marble, glass, wood and other materials.

“When I typed in Elk Lake, hoping my ring would show up, I saw that just one ring from Elk Lake was listed, but it was for the Class of 1982,” Lisa said, adding that was not the year of her graduation.

Curious about who the 1982 ring might belong to, Lisa requested more information about it and was informed that it belonged to a member of the Class of 1982 with the initials FD. With that information, she looked through a copy of Elk Lake’s 1982 yearbook and quickly made the connection between FD and Floyd Darling, who, as it turns out, happens to be her uncle’s cousin.

It was San Diego resident Bob Harris who was searching Mission Beach with a metal detector and uncovered Darling’s ring.

Classringfinder.com states that it has a listing of 7,899 lost class rings and has been responsible for returning 1,770.

After being notified by Lisa Burger that she’d found the owner of the ring, Harris contacted Laceyville Postmaster Bill Clark for Darling’s address so the ring could be mailed to him. Clark told Harris that postal regulations prohibited him from giving out addresses, but offered to give the ring personally to Darling and that’s how the surprise gathering at the post office took shape. Clark told Darling nothing about his ring being found, but did clue in his boss, David Brown. He simply phoned Darling to say that he needed to be at the post office Tuesday at 3 p.m. without saying why.

Darling walked into the post office Tuesday looking somewhat puzzled and peered briefly at the group gathered there, which included Lisa Burger, her husband, Rick, Bill Clark and this reporter. He seemed to sense something was up but didn’t know what to expect next.

“She has something that belongs to you,” Clark said. Burger held up Darling’s ring.

“Where did that come from,” Darling asked with a big smile slowly forming on his face. “I wrote that off years ago.”

Darling went on to explain that he didn’t remember just when he discovered that he’d lost his ring, and that he did spend a lot of time at San Diego beaches during breaks from his training as an electronics technician for Marine Corps helicopters. He served in the Marine Corps for six years and never thought much about his lost class ring, he said.

A note from Bob Harris that accompanied the ring stated: “I found your ring years ago on a beach in San Diego, California. I’m pretty sure it was Mission Beach. I tried to locate you back then, but really didn’t put enough effort into it—I apologize. I put your ring on the classringfinder.com web site, hoping you or someone you know would see it. Lisa Burger contacted me and got the ball rolling and now you have it.”

Clark said he was happy to play a role in getting the ring back to Darling. “It’s nice to see something good in life happen,” Clark said.

Darling thanked Burger and Clark for their role in getting his long-lost ring returned, smiled and then told Clark: “Well, as long as I’m here, would you mind handing me my mail?”

Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2008

Knight suit found at bus shelter returned to owner

Henrietta Lemon didn’t realize her armored knight statue had gone missing Friday morning, but she’s sure glad to have him back.

“He’s kind of sentimental now,” said the Keizer resident.

The statue was returned to Lemon on Saturday morning after she saw it on television and called police to claim it.

The nearly 5-foot-tall statue was taken from Lemon’s front porch Friday morning. It later turned up inside a bus shelter at Wheatland Road and Parkmeadow Drive N.

Keizer police don’t know who stole the statue, said spokesman Capt. Jeff Kuhns. Lemon’s attitude: no harm, no foul.

“They didn’t hurt anything or destroy anything,” she said. “It was just a cute prank.”

Lemon, a real estate agent with Windermere, has had the statue for about a month. One of her friends, a wine distributor, was going to throw it out, so she decided to take it.

Lemon figured it would be the perfect gift for one of her clients, who was looking to buy a dream castle. It was supposed to be a surprise.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do with it now,” Lemon said.

Shipmates reunited after 62 years

Methuen resident Arthur Mansor lost touch with his former shipmate and friend Stanley Moore of Lansing, Mich., after World War II.

The Navy veterans served on the USS Dutchess (APA 98) in the Pacific and worked as radiomen, copying messages they didn’t understand from Washington. They were not privy to the information in the messages; they simply passed them on to be deciphered.

They served together in 1944 and 1945.

A mutual acquaintance reunited them after 62 years. But it wasn’t until February that they finally reconnected in person. They met in Naples, Fla., while Mansor was visiting his daughter. It was the first time they had seen each other since December 1945.

Mansor turns 84 on April 2.

“I don’t want to blow our own whistle, but I think we’re in a little class by ourselves, still being here at 84,” Mansor said.

Moore is considering coming to the Merrimack Valley to visit Mansor in June. Mansor was one of three Lawrence natives to serve on the ship at the time. He served in World War II and the Korean War.

How did you two find each other?

We’ll go back to about 1988, 1986. My partner here aboard ship, he had relocated to Lakeland, Fla., and the ex-police chief of Methuen, Cyril Feugill, he retired to Lakeland, Fla. And as fate would have it, Mr. Moore happened to be in the same area. He found out the chief was from Lawrence, the same place I was (living) in WWII, and asked if he knew a certain person, (Arthur) Mansor. (The chief did know Mansor.) I got a call from Stan Moore, who had finally located me. We still hadn’t seen each other until this past month in Naples. We communicated maybe a half a dozen times, but we never could get together.

What was the first thing you said to him?

When I first saw him, I says, “You’re looking better than I am.” And he says to me, “You haven’t changed a bit.” And I had to call him a liar.

What was your job all those years ago?

Radioman 2nd classman. Also, Stan Moore, my co-partner here, he was also a radioman second class. Our job was to copy incoming, outgoing messages; mostly incoming during the war because of radio silence, which was in effect at the time. We would take incoming radio messages, which were coded and were then sent to the decoding room for deciphering, and then sent to the appropriate officers.

Where did you go in the Pacific?

We operated out of San Francisco. We went to Pearl Harbor, which was our operating base. From there, we went west. We went to all the islands in the Pacific. We went to the Philippines. Our final (voyage) while the war was still on was to Okinawa.

How did you and Stanley meet?

Being radio operators, we struck off a very good friendship. If you’re aboard ship for all that time, everybody has their own personalities. (Moore is) the type of guy like myself, we’re laid back. We have a lot of things in common.

Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2008

War hero’s lost medals are found – 90 years later

A relative of a World War One hero has bought back his lost medals at auction – after tracking them down following a chance conversation at a museum.

Vera Harvey, 65, had spent years trying to find the medals given to her great-uncle Frank Watts who died at the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.

Frank was killed aged 25 along with 20,000 British soldiers on the first day of bloodiest battle in the history of the British Army.

He was awarded three medals for bravery – the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal – which were sent back to his parents.

But somehow the medals were lost and not seen again for over 90 years – until Vera was led to them by chance.

Her friend overheard a man talking about the medals of a soldier named “Watts” he had seen on an auctioneer’s website.

They turned out to be those of her great uncle and she travelled to an auction in London to pay £400 for all three.

Spinster Vera, of Totnes, Devon, said: “The auctioneer said the chances of families getting medals like this back are millions to one.

“Some people spend their entire lives looking for medals that have gone out of the family.

“It was just pure coincidence that I found out about this but it feels almost like it was meant to be.

“Frank used to be just a name to me, I didn’t really know anything about him, but now he has come to life.

“The bidding at the auction was pretty scary because there were a couple of other people bidding but I was determined to win them and I managed it.”

Private Frank Watts was a member of the Devonshire Regiment and died at the beginning of the Somme offensive.

Because he was buried in France the only mementoes his parents Alfred and Sarah had to remember him by were the medals and a letter to his sister Mary eight days before his death – thanking them for the “fags” they sent him.

Vera had begun to search for the medals when her friend Jill Drysdale was at Totnes Museum and overheard a conversation between visitor Lionel Harper and museum volunteer Clifford Watts.

Mr Harper said his brother-in-law had seen an auction website advertising the war medals of a Totnes soldier called Watts – and wondered if they were a relative of Clifford’s.

He said “no” but Jill immediately thought of Vera – to whom he is not related – and informed her immediately.

The sale was held by specialist auctioneer Dix Noonan Webb at the Washington Hotel in Mayfair, London, on March 20.

The auction lot included photographs of Frank’s gravestone in France, a copy of the 1916 local paper detailing his death and even maps of the Western front showing where he died.

Vera, a town councillor, added: “I have no idea whatsoever where these medals have been for the last 90 years but I have just sent a letter off to the seller so hopefully there is another piece of the story to uncover.

“I do want to find out more about the history of these medals but I’m so happy that they have finally been brought back into the family.”

Monday, Mar. 31, 2008

Golfer reunited with paramedic who saved his life

A HEART attack patient has been reunited with the paramedic whose quick thinking helped save his life.
Gerry Wooster, of Bradley, Wrexham, was struck by a sudden heart attack when walking away from the fourth hole at Rhuddlan Golf Club last October.

Doctor Jamie Wainwright, a St Asaph based GP, was following in a party behind Gerry and rushed to give first aid.

Rhyl clinical team leader Ken Cook, was manning a rapid response vehicle when he was informed of the incident, and made his way to the golf club within four minutes of the call.

Arriving at the club, the paramedic decided getting to Gerry on foot would lose the patient valuable seconds, vital for his chance of survival.

And so quick thinking Ken decided to pack his bags onto an awaiting golf buggy, and use the vehicle to continue his rapid response to the patient on the fourth hole.

He explained: “When I arrived the patient was being resuscitated by a fellow golfer who just happened to be Dr Wainwright from Pen-Y-Bont surgery, St Asaph. Following further resuscitation and five shocks from the defibrillator, we managed to restart his heart.”

The paramedic was quickly joined by Rhyl Ambulance crew Tony Stephens and Sam Jones who negotiated their emergency vehicle across the fairways to reach Gerry.

The crew assisted with the patient’s breathing in the back of the ambulance until they arrived at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

Now Gerry, a member of the 18 hole club since 1967, has been reunited with Ken at the club and given a chance to thank him.

Thanks to the clinical assistance he received, Gerry, who has been fitted with a defibrillator to keep his heart
beat at a comfortable rate, is already back testing his handicap of 17 on the fairways of Rhuddlan.

Ken added: “It’s just great to be able to see how well Gerry has recovered from his heart attack. It was very nice to see him here and see how much of a respected man he is at the club.”

The past chairman of the Clwyd Boarder Alliance, Gerry said: “Ken and the crew did a very good job, if it wasn’t for him and Doctor Wainwright on the golf course, I wouldn’t be here today.

“I came off the par three fourth green on the course and I was suddenly on the ground. Doctor Wainwright was behind us and ran 100 yards to help me. Then Ken was the first ambulance man to reach me on the course.”

He added: “I have played a few holes since October, but now I am getting around in a golf buggy instead of walking. It will take me time but I am getting around a bit better…I can still swing!”

Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2008

Dad reunited with sons after more than two decades

A FATHER who had not seen his children for 21 years has been re-united with both his sons thanks to the Chronicle.

We revealed how Frank finally found his eldest son Ashley, 26, who he hadn’t seen for more than 21 years – despite living just 10 miles away from each other.

Now, Frank has at last met his other son, Damien, 24, after years of separation.

Frank, 58, who runs a guesthouse on Ocean Road, South Shields, said the best moment of the whirlwind past fortnight was simply hearing his two boys call him dad.

He said: “That meant a lot to me.

“I really wasn’t expecting them to call me dad after all these years.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for all this to happen.”

Frank proudly spoke of their future together as a family and said he would never let them go again.

“We’ve definitely got a future together. I’m not letting go now.”

And Damien, of Medway Place, Cramlington, said he decided to start searching for his dad after he saw a photo of him at Christmas last year.

He said: “I don’t know why, but seeing the photo triggered something. I didn’t want to ask him why I hadn’t see him or anything. It was about finding out who I am.”

He also said he could see similarities between the two of them. He said: “It was quite strange seeing my dad because he was so different to the photo I had always had.”

And Frank said he’s looking forward to being there for his two sons in the future.

He said: “Neither are married yet, so I’m really pleased I’ve still got that to look forward to.”

Frank said: “When I’m walking around with them I introduce them as my two boys.

“It’s the sort of thing you hear on the Oprah Winfrey Show, but it’s not the kind of thing you expect to happen to you.

Damien, who studies music at Newcastle College and DJs in some of Newcastle’s biggest clubs under the name DJ Capo Ultra, said: “I haven’t thought about the future in too much depth, it’s still a recent shock. I’d just like to keep seeing my dad as much as possible.”

Monday, Feb. 25, 2008

Sisters reunited

A CLEVEDON (UK) woman who has been searching for her half-sister for more than 40 years has been reunited with her at last.

Pamela Fear, aged 62, had known about her mother’s baby since she was 13 years old, and has also wanted to meet her.

In an article in a January edition of our sister paper, The Weston & Somerset Mercury, long lost sister Diane Elsmore, who only lives 20 miles away in Highbridge, said she was looking for any surviving relatives, after she was informally adopted as a baby.

Diane, aged 70, was trying to track down her birth mother and any siblings who may be living in Weston.

Just a few weeks later, Diane, who was named Sheila Harroway on her birth certificate, found her half-sister Pamela Fear.

After an anonymous phone call to the Weston & Somerset Mercury, we found out Diane’s mother, Alma Coombes, had stayed in Cherry Orchard Residential Care in Clevedon, but had sadly died a few years ago.

The nursing home was able to pass a message on to Alma’s daughter Pamela and she was soon on the phone to Diane.

Pamela said: “My auntie had told me my mother had had another baby and that she was born in Westonzoyland.

“When I had a knee operation in December 2006 I was off work for a few months and decided this would be the perfect time to try and track her down.

“I went to agencies, libraries and record offices but couldn’t find anything out.

“When I was growing up I always wanted a brother or sister to play with.”

Pamela, who lives near the nursing home in Cherry Avenue in Clevedon, went to school in Weston and often took trips to Burnham, just a few miles from where Diane now lives.

Diane, of Southwell Crescent in Highbridge, said: “I’ve lived in Highbridge for the last year and cannot believe I was just 20 miles away.”

Diane only had her birth certificate and a few details to go on when searching for her relatives. She knew her mother had been a hairdresser in Weston and been 17 or 18 years old when she became pregnant.

The couple that raised Diane said her father’s name was Lesley Harroway and he ran a furniture shop in St James Street in Weston.

Anyone who may have information about the father’s side of the family can email newsdesk@thewestonmercury.co.uk

Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007

Adopted son finds birth mom at his workplace

For years, Steve Flaig, a delivery truck driver at the Lowe’s store on Plainfield Avenue, Grand Rapids, had searched for his birth mother.

He found her working the cash register at the front of the store.

For several months, he and Christine Tallady had known each other casually as co-workers. Last Friday they met for the first time as mother and son.

“I have a complete family now, all my kids,” said Tallady, who has two younger children. “It’s a perfect time of year. It’s the best Christmas present ever.”

For Flaig, it was the reunion he had dreamed of for much of his 22 years. He had always known he was adopted, and his parents, Pat and Lois Flaig, who raised him since his birth, supported his decision to search for his birth mother.

It was a tough decision for Tallady, unmarried at the time, to give him up when he was born on Oct. 5, 1985, but “I wasn’t ready to be a mother,” she said.

She left the adoption record open, figuring he might want to contact her someday, and she often thought of him, particularly on his birthday. But life went on. She got married, had two more kids.

Four years ago, when Flaig turned 18, he asked DA Blodgett for Children, the agency that arranged his adoption, for his background information. A couple of months later, it came, including his birth mother’s name.

He searched the Internet for her address and came up empty. In October, around the time of his 22nd birthday, he took out the paperwork from DA Blodgett and realized he had been spelling his mother’s surname wrong as “Talladay.” He typed “Tallady” into a search engine and came up with an address on West River Drive less than a mile from the Lowe’s store.

He mentioned it to his boss, and she said, “You mean Chris Tallady, who works here?” He was stunned.

“I was like, there’s no possible way,” he said. “It’s just such a bizarre situation.”

He had been working at Lowe’s for two years. She was hired in April as head cashier.

Over the past two months, “I would walk by her, look at her from a distance, not knowing how to approach her,” Flaig said. “You don’t come stocked with information on how to deal with this.”

It would seem tactless to walk up and say, “Hi, I’m Steve, your son.” What if she rejected him?

Last Wednesday, on his day off, Flaig happened to be driving past the DA Blodgett offices. He decided to stop in and tell them of his find. An employee there volunteered to call Tallady for him.

Tallady, 45, was surprised to get the call at Lowe’s. How did the DA Blodgett people know where she worked?

“The first thing that crossed my mind is something was wrong with him,” she said. Was he sick? Did he need a blood transfusion?

“And then she said, ‘Christine, he works with you,'” Tallady recalled. “It was a shock. I started crying. I figured he would call me sometime, but not like this.”

She sobbed a lot that day, tears of joy. Flaig called her later that day, and last Friday the two, who until then had occasionally said “hi” as coworkers do, met at the Cheers Good Time Saloon near the store. They hugged, sat and talked for 2 1/2 hours.

On Tuesday, they hugged again in the store where both were working the day shift. They know their paths must have crossed many times. Both graduated from Northview schools. Both attended St. Jude’s Catholic Church.

“We both hate olives, both love roller coasters,” Tallady said.

Flaig hasn’t decided whether to search now for his birth father. He’s anxious to meet Tallady’s other two children, Brandon, 10, and Alexandra, 12. Her husband, Dale, out of town on business, wants to be there when they meet, maybe this weekend.

“My husband is wonderful,” Tallady said. “He wants it to be a whole family thing.”

Friday, Dec. 14, 2007

Reunited With My Dad After 47 Years

WHEN Ken Agland and Carol Wallace met for the first time in 47 years, neither could help shedding tears.

They had been brought together in a hotel in Inverurie, a father and daughter who hadn’t seen each other in nearly five decades.

Until that moment, all Ken had been to Carol was a hazy memory of a bulky figure who used to build her toy models.

For Ken, Carol was still the little girl he had last seen when she was aged just four and whose photographs he had treasured all that time.

But when the tears finally subsided, the two strangers faced trying to get to know each other once again.

Thankfully, time had not broken the father-and-daughter bond and the pair are now, just four months since they were reunited, the best of friends.

Ken, 76, said: “Meeting Carol has made my life complete.

“I have never forgotten her and I can still remember the last time I saw her.

“That’s an image I have carried with me through the years. Meeting her again was an incredibly traumatic and emotional moment. But, at the same time, it never actually felt as if we had been apart for all those years.

“It was just like seeing someone who had just come back into my life but who I have always known, especially once we were able to dry our tears and actually start talking.”

Mum-of-six Carol, 51, added: “I was incredibly nervous and anxious about meeting Ken.

“I didn’t know what to expect but, once we had been together five or 10 minutes and stopped wiping the tears from our eyes, it just seemed so easy.

“It felt strangely familiar and we had a great conversation.”

Ken, who is originally from London, met Carol’s mum, Jean, when he was stationed with the RAF near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.

They married in 1956 and baby Carol arrived not long after. They were a happy family but problems arose when Ken, who had left the RAF after five years, struggled to find work as an electrician.

He said: “I ended up having to work away from home a lot, which isn’t what you want when you are a newly married man.

“It eventually came to a point where I couldn’t get regular work, so I decided it would be best to come down south, find better employment and a home for us all to live in.

“Then Jean told me there was no way she was leaving Scotland and I didn’t want to go back into the situation where I couldn’t work.

“I am sorry to say things just went downhill from there. Looking back, I don’t think you can blame anyone, it was just such a different world back then.”

Over time, Ken lost all contact with his ex-wife and daughter Carol.

He said: “The hardest times were weekends and holidays when you saw other dads out with their children.

“Even after I married again and had another two children of my own, I never forgot Carol.

“I even remembered the date and time of her birth, which always surprises a lot of people.”

Back in Peterhead, Carol was growing up calling another man dad. Her mum had also remarried and, while Carol had a few shady memories of a man who used to play with her and who took her to stockcar racing, she always thought he was an uncle or family friend.

It wasn’t until she was getting married and needed her birth certificate at the age of 21 that she found out the truth.

Carol said: “It was very hard. Finding that out completely stumped me, took the wind right out of my sails.

“I was shocked and spoke to my husband-to-be about it all and we decided we would deal with the wedding first and then see where things went from there. But events overtook us.”

While Carol was on honeymoon, the man she had grown-up calling dad died.

Then her mum Jean fell ill with motor neurone disease.

Carol, who now lives in Oldmeldrum in Aberdeenshire, said: “She was struggling hard enough to communicate anyway, so I didn’t feel comfortable pushing her with questions.

“With all that going on, the issue of my birth father just sort of fell into the background and that wasn’t helped by the fact that the rest of the family never spoke about him.

“Now I think they were just trying to protect me and, of course, back then those kind of family secrets were big deals.”

Over the years, Ken made several attempts to trace Carol.

After the first few attempts failed, he found himself on holiday in the north of England one year and decided to drive up to Peterhead to see if he could find his lost daughter.

It was a fruitless search but a few years later his other daughter made a bit more headway on the internet. But after discovering Carol’s married name and a few other details she, too, hit a brick wall.

So by the time a letter from the Salvation Army landed on his desk four months ago, Ken had just about given up ever seeing his eldest daughter again.

He said: “It was totally out of the blue and my first thought was how on earth did they get my name and address?

“Then I read it and re-read it and knew that I just had to phone. It took just minutes to establish that the Carol looking for her father was my daughter.”

The Salvation Army passed on Ken’s address to Carol who wrote her father a letter immediately.

Carol said: “My husband and I had discussed trying to track Ken down when my children were small but we decided then there was no point. There didn’t seem to be a good reason for us to do it at that stage. And, looking back, I think I probably wasn’t ready for it either.

“Things changed this year and I think the change was brought on by a string of family events.

“One of my uncles died, which brought the realisation we are mortal and losing the next generation. Then two of my children got married this year, which made me realise that there was a bit missing from my family.

“It was then I decided to look for Ken.”

When Ken received the letter from Carol he answered her straight away, including his phone number and a message telling his eldest daughter she could phone him any time.

He said: “I think she hummed and hawed when she got the letter and then picked up the phone. But it wasn’t at all strange to hear her voice, she just sounded familiar.

“What was lovely was my wife, Celia, took the phone from me and told Carol, ‘welcome to the family’ and thanked her for the blessing of another six grandkids.

“Family are everything and without that, you have nothing.”

Ken and Carol were finally reunited at the start of September. For four days they did nothing but talk, getting to know each other again after 47 years.

Ken said: “Carol and I decided that everything started from the moment we met again. The past is gone and we can never make that up.

“Thankfully, what happened doesn’t seem to have done Carol any harm. We have become great friends.”

Ken and his wife have since been guests at one of Carol’s daughter’s weddings and went to her Uncle Gordon’s 50th wedding anniversary party – after all Ken had been his best man.

Ken said: “It is great, we now have one great big enlarged family. I would tell anyone thinking about getting in touch with a family member they have lost touch with to do it and do it now.

“None of us know how much time we have in front of us and this is the time of year to do it. Believe me it is more than worth it.”

Ken and Carol’s story will be told as part of the Reunited programme on BBC1 at 10.45pm on Tuesday, December 18.It is part of the BBC’s Hard Christmas season.

‘Anyone thinking about getting in touch with family they’ve lost touch with should do it now. None of us know how much time we have in front of us …’

Mother, children reunited in time for daughter’s 16th birthday party

Beth Gifford was trying to decide what her soon-to-be 16-year-old niece wanted for her milestone birthday.

Most 16-year-olds are in to cars, makeup, clothes, cell phones, and iPod and mp3 players, but none of those made Kimberly Dawn Vaughn’s wish list.

Her special gift was more personal.

“I wanted to find my mom,” Vaughn said.

Gifford said Vaughn and her 14-year-old brother, Steven, have been separated from their mother, June Dale Vaughn, since they were 1 and 2 months old. The children’s parents separated and eventually left them in the custody of their grandmother, Mary Wimberly.

“The children, over the years, have seen their father periodically, but all the time they asked about their mother,” Gifford said. “They had questions about her that we couldn’t answer.

“I never knew my biological father, so I understood there was a void there and I wanted to help them fill that void.”

During the week of Thanksgiving, Gifford asked Kimberly what it would mean to meet her mother.

“She said it would mean the world to her,” Gifford said. “A few minutes later, she came up to me and said all she wanted for her birthday was to know her mom.”

Kimberly said she often thought of her mother. “I didn’t remember her, so I wondered what she was like, what she looked like and what she was doing. There was just something missing in my life.”

They made the decision to start the search. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Gifford, Wimberly, Kimberly and Steven drove to Ripley, Tenn., the last place she knew Vaughn had lived.

“When we got there, we got a telephone book and started looking up everyone in the phone book with her maiden name,” Gifford said.

After they made several telephone calls with no luck, Gifford said they turned to the police department.

And as if by fate, someone at the police station was a friend of Vaughn’s.

“They told us where she lived and how to get to the house,” Gifford said.

Gifford said as they drove to the residence, Kimberly and Steven were noticeably nervous.

“They were doing a lot of squirming around, nervous acting because they didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

“It was exciting but I was scared,” Kimberly said. “We didn’t know what to expect from her, or even if she would want to see us.”

That question was quickly answered.

“My roommate came to my bedroom and said my children were at the door,” Vaughn said. “I jumped up and ran down the hallway.”

She said though it had been almost 15 years since she had seen them, she recognized her children at once. “I started crying and they started tearing up,” she said.

“There was a lot of hugging and a lot of tears,” Gifford said.

Kimberly said her first thought was, “this is my mom.”

“It was almost like a dream, because I had wondered if we would ever see each other,” Kimberly said.

When Vaughn heard about her daughter’s birthday wish, she was more than willing to make the trip back to Alabama.

“I couldn’t wait,” she said.

Vaughn said she had tried to find her children through the years but had no success.

“When she moved to Tennessee, they were still living in Illinois, apparently that’s where she had tried to find them; she didn’t know they had moved to Alabama,” Gifford said. “After so long, she had just about given up.”

Not only did Vaughn want to be at her daughter’s birthday, but she came back with them that day.

“All the way home, she sat in the backseat between Kimberly and Steven. I think they hugged on her just about the entire way home. It made my heart feel good,” Gifford said.

For two weeks, Vaughn has been “getting to know” her children. Steven said it’s difficult to describe what it’s like having his mother back in his life.

“The last two weeks we’ve spent a lot of time together, kind of getting to know each other,” he said.

Kimberly said it’s been nice having her mom back in her life.

“It’s been everything I thought it would be,” she said. “There’s a happiness that I had never felt.”

The 36-year-old Vaughn said she plans on continuing to be in her children’s lives. She plans on being with them at Christmas and she wants them to come visit her.

“It took so long to get back together, I’m not going to lose them now,” she said.

On Thursday afternoon, Kimberly celebrated her 16th birthday with her family, which finally, included her mother.

“It was the best birthday present I could have received,” Kimberly said.

“It was a pretty good gift, the best one I could have given her,” Gifford said.

“It makes me cry every time I think about it,” Vaughn said. “(Kimberly) wanted me for her birthday. I plan on being a part of more to come.”

Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007

Family reunited for Christmas

Lien Nguyen spent most of the past decade half a world away from his son.

They’ll sit down together this year to a Christmas dinner provided by the Empty Stocking Fund.

“I’m looking forward to the family reunion,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “This has been nine years without each other.”

Nguyen, 79, came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1998 through a Catholic Charities resettlement program. He lives in an apartment across the street from one of his four sons in Knoxville.

Nguyen was once a village policeman in his home province of Vinh Long. That was before the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists.

Nguyen spent years in prison and in a re-education camp before coming to the U.S.

“It was a hard life,” he said.

He spent the next nine years in East Tennessee, waiting for all his sons to join him. The last son to come over, Vu, arrived four months ago with his wife, Anh, and their 3-year-old daughter, Nguyen.

“I’m very happy to see him again,” the father said. “It’s a better life here than in Vietnam.”

A daughter remains there. She’s married with children of her own, and Nguyen doubts she’ll make the move to the U.S.

Nguyen doesn’t speak English and suffers from arthritis and his eyesight has begun to fade, making most things a blur.

But he can still see the lights that shine from the manger scene in front of the home.

Vu built what the family believes may be Knoxville’s first example of a mangco – a traditional Vietnamese-style fixture of the season.

The decorations go beyond a simple manger scene, incorporating poinsettias, Christmas trees, lights, wreaths and stars.

They plan to enjoy the holiday beauty as they dig into their ESF basket, which will include a turkey and trimmings, canned goods, fresh fruit and toys for Nguyen’s granddaughter.

Nguyen said he can’t imagine spending the holiday any other way.

“This year will be special,” he said.

The family will be among about 8,000 people enjoying a brighter holiday thanks to the program, a News Sentinel charity that began in 1912.

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007

Torah damaged during Kristallnacht returned to Cologne synagogue

A Torah scroll damaged by Nazis during the Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass- was returned on Friday to a synagogue in Cologne to mark the 69th anniversary of the pogrom against Jews throughout Germany.

Members of the German city’s Jewish community took turns carrying the scroll that had been painstakingly restored in Jerusalem.

The ceremony was attended by Israel’s Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Schlomo Moshe Amar.

On Thursday, the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust wrapped up its 19th annual conference on Thursday in Jerusalem.

Some 800 survivors, their children and grandchildren gathered for a series of lectures, workshops and discussions aimed at reuniting long-lost friends and guaranteeing that their dramatic tales outlive them.

Lost medallion returned to war hero’s family after 30 year search

Veterans Day is a time when many vets honor their comradery with each other. But for one Tucson man, it’s a day to relive a promise.

Federico Tapia’s best friend died in his arms during the Vietnam War. It’s a memory he shares with his family every Veterans Day.

“I go back to Vietnam,” Tapia said as he described what goes through his mind every Veterans Day. “What happened the same day that he died and what we did. What he did for me.”

His friend, Richard Calderon, was shot and knew he was going to die. So he gave his St. Christopher medallion to Federico with one request – to give it to his father.

“So I promised to him that I was going to give it back to his dad, not knowing how I’m going to do it, where I’m going to find him,” Tapia said.

Fate found its way at Richard’s gravesite more than 30 years later when Federico ran into his friend’s relative. The man directed Federico to Richard’s father. Weeks later, Federico was able to keep his promise and hand the medallion over.

“That was the wish that he asked me to do, and I finally did it,” Tapia said.

Every year he brings his family to Holy Hope Cemetery where he shares the story, which his family says puts a face on the holiday.

“You see it,” Federico’s son Abel said. “The story behind it, two men, looking out for each other, and their families got together.”

A chapter one man thought was closed, but will be continued through his family.

Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007

WWII veteran reunited with war memorabilia

A World War II veteran living in Glendora, N.J., received a pleasant surprise when a package of war memorabilia arrived at his door.

Janet Bianchini said when she delivered a package of long-lost World War II materials to Pat Sasso’s home, the 85-year-old veteran was amazed at the resurgence of so many memories, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday.

Bianchini’s mother, Terry, had been engaged to Sasso during World War II and had been given the memorabilia to keep until he returned from the war in Germany.

The couple grew apart, however, and until Bianchini arrived on Sasso’s doorstep, Sasso had not seen the memorabilia.

“The joy in that man’s face!” Bianchini said. “I cried the whole time. I knew this guy through the letters and fell in love with him. I took off my sunglasses, and our eyes locked. He could see my mother in me.”

A family reunited by an old photograph

Like many families, we have custody of old pictures that are too precious to discard but frustratingly unlabeled. The long-gone relatives, so stiffly posed in these little portraits, knew who they were and saw no reason to write names or dates on the back. They couldn’t have imagined who would be looking at the pictures more than a hundred years later, wondering about the people, the occasion, even how the pictures survived.

Many of these pictures are the cardboard cartes de visite, literally calling cards or visiting cards, although that was not how they were popularly used. But in our family, one of these old pictures did become our calling card for “visiting” a family that separated in the 1890s.

Photography got its popular start in 1839 with the invention of the daguerreotype. Later came pictures in the form of ambrotypes on glass. Such early pictures were one of a kind; no negative for multiple copies existed in these processes.

Tintypes, also known as ferrotypes, were introduced in the mid-1850s, but the real popularization of photography came with the carte de visite.

Cartes de visite were so named because they were the size of calling cards of that era. The photo was pasted on cardboard measuring 2-1/2 inches by 4 inches, usually with the photographer’s business information beautifully presented on the back.

Parisian photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri patented this new albumen-based process in 1854 using a camera with four lenses that efficiently and cheaply allowed up to eight prints to be made from a single glass negative plate.

Suddenly nearly everyone could afford a family photo, at least for special occasions. Disdéri and his process, it is said, became wildly famous after Napoleon III stopped his march to Italy to pose in Disdéri’s studio for his own portrait. The carte de visite craze was born.

Carte albums could be found in virtually every Victorian parlor, collections that included not only family members but also famous people such as actors and singers. “Card portraits, as everybody knows, have become the social currency, the ‘green-backs’ of civilization,” Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1863.

Photographers made fortunes. The biography of one British photographer reported that more than half a million eggs were being delivered to his studio each year to meet the demand for these prints! (They were made with the albumen from egg whites mixed with salt to make a shiny surface and bind the photographic chemicals.)

The carte de visite album that survived and was handed down through our family includes a built-in music box, providing dual-media parlor entertainment, perhaps presaging the living room television set. The studio props used in the pictures are fascinating glimpses into the tastes of that era: balustrades, heavy curtains, sumptuous carpets, potted palm trees, fine furniture, and columns, even simulated outdoor scenes with little bridges and painted landscape backdrops.

The carte de visite process and popularity had moved to the US by 1860, and many Civil War soldiers left behind cartes de visite for their loved ones and carried similar pictures with them to war.

Around 1862 the larger so-called cabinet cards (4-1/2-by-6-1/2-inch cardboard) appeared and also became popular. We have several of those in our family collection, too, all frustratingly unidentified.

The popularity of cartes de visite diminished after 1900, however, when Kodak began selling the hugely popular cardboard Brownie box camera for $1.

Remarkably, these delicate prints have survived for generations. And one of ours, showing our grandfather Joseph and his sister Martha in a serious, awkward sibling pose, turned out to be literally a carte de visite for my sister and me.

Years of searching for descendents of the sister left in Berlin when our grand-father emigrated finally paid off when a particular letter, one of many we had written hopefully and painstakingly in German to presumed relatives, reached our second cousin in Berlin.

She had initially ignored our letters, suspicious of who was writing to her and asking questions about the past, until we photocopied the carte de visite of Joseph and Martha, along with other pictures, and mailed them.

It turned out that the cousin had the same carte de visite, passed down from her grandmother Martha. The occasion for the picture was their confirmations, she explained to us in her first reply.

When she saw our copy of the same picture she had, she was finally convinced that we were really family.

By the second letter, she had invited us to visit Berlin and stay in her house. We were no longer strangers, but rather family to be welcomed back more than a hundred years after parting.

We eventually did visit and that occasion, documented this time with digital photos, bridged two generations of separation and showed that in some cases, at least, cartes de visite literally are calling cards.

Monday, Nov. 5, 2007

A meal 22 years in the making

Feet away from Ban Van Phan, people talked about him. They talked about his life. They talked about his feelings.

And he had nothing to say about it.

It could be due to the fact he speaks little English. Or it could be because Ban Van Phan just left a Vietnamese prison after 22 years and was now sitting in a strange place called Rockford, eating dinner with his family.

“He doesn’t believe it,” his son, Vinh Phan, said of the 70-year-old man’s American experience.

It’s been three weeks since Ban Van Phan arrived in Chicago and was taken to Rockford to be reunited with his family. On Sunday, as a thank you to those who helped in the decades-long effort to free him, about 20 people gathered in an open house to eat with the reunited family.

From the outside looking in, the event appeared mundane. But for those like Pam Herriott, Vinh Phan’s English instructor, their insides churned with emotions.

“It’s incredible. It’s a miracle,” Herriott said. “I’m so thrilled to be a part of it.”

Since Ban Van Phan has arrived stateside, the family has thanked many of those who helped with his release. Herriott, who helped Vinh Phan pen letters to government officials for his father’s release, said that the family stopped by her house recently and gave her a pen set.

“It was just so beautiful,” Herriott of Rockford said.

Stanley Campbell, a social activist who heads Rockford Urban Ministries and a Vietnam veteran, was equally elated to see the family reunited.

“Just to see them happy together, that’s the good stuff,” Campbell said.

His son has shown Ban Van Phan CherryVale Mall, where he was wowed by seeing a glass-enclosed elevator for the first time. And he has developed an affinity for American fare — something the family hopes will plump the slender man up.

“He likes McDonald’s,” his son said.

There are still hurdles left for Ban Van Phan. His visit to America expires after one year, and the family is still working to get him granted refugee status, which would allow him to remain with them. They located to the States in 1994.

And Ban Van Phan plans on joining in the same classes that helped teach his son English. And then maybe he will express how he feels for himself, something a lot of people are waiting to hear.

Monday, Oct. 29, 2007

Long-lost sisters are reunited in senior home

Dorothy Caudle lived only 300 feet from her sister, but the two had not seen each other in 38 years and had no idea they were staying at the same senior living community in Tempe.

The women were reunited this month after a chain of events that staff members and relatives call miraculous.

“We didn’t even recognize each other the first day,” Caudle said.

Things started to fall into place on Oct. 7, when television news crews showed up at Westchester Campus of Care in Tempe to cover the 100th birthday of Gladys Clark, a resident at the faith-based facility.

During the centennial celebration, a cousin informed Clark’s 67-year-old son, Cloyce, that his mother’s younger sister was also living at the facility. Cloyce investigated and discovered that his 83-year-old aunt had lived about 300 feet away for nearly a year.

With the help of relatives and Westchester staff member Bonnie Peterson, the sisters were reunited about one week later on Oct. 15.

Peterson called the reunion a “miracle,” and Clark agreed.

“Whatever the Lord has for me, that’s what I’ll do,” Clark said.

Clark has lived at the Westchester apartments for about 10 years.

Her younger sister moved to the facility last November.

Caudle used her middle name, Juanita, while growing up but went by Dorothy in later years.

The sisters are originally from Texas. Clark has lived in Arizona since 1927, and Caudle moved to the state in 1958.

Caudle said she moved to Tempe to be near a daughter. Though she was aware that Clark lived in the state, she said she had no idea they were living in the same facility.

The sisters did not elaborate on how they became estranged more than 38 years ago. They came from a family with 11 children, Caudle the youngest.

Peterson said the size of the family might have been a factor.

“Large families can lose track of each other,” Peterson said. Another factor might have been the sisters’ age difference.

Clark left Texas shortly after Caudle was born to marry and settle in Arizona.

Without things such as e-mail to keep in touch, the sisters said their busy lives kept them from contacting each other.

After their initial reunion, the sisters have met three more times. They say they have a lot of catching up to do — mostly talking about family and their numerous nieces and nephews.

“There’s no telling how many,” Caudle said with a laugh.

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007

Family reunites after 10 years

After 10 years apart, a family reunited with their son at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Monday.

Alvan Ozana was just 12 years old when he was separated from his family while fleeing political violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“There was shooting everywhere, there were guns everywhere,” said Alvan’s father, Pierre Ozana.

Ozana worked as an advisor to the overthrown president and was told to leave the country or he would lose his life. Amidst the turmoil, his family became separated.

“We had to cross the river and that wasn’t easy,” explained Ozana, who along with his wife Stella came to Raleigh under political asylum. For years they thought their son Alvan was dead. A phone call in 2006 changed all that. A friend had found Alvan living on the streets in Africa.

“For me it is like a dream,” said Stella Ozana.

The family enlisted the help of the Triangle Red Cross, the Embassy in the Congo and Rep. Brad Miller’s office to help get their son into the United States.

“There were times Pierre would come in and I could tell he’d been up all night crying in frustration,” said Triangle Red Cross worker Tracie Thomason.

On Monday, those tears were for joy as Alvan finally arrived more than a year after that initial phone call.

“I am so happy, so happy,” said Alvan as he fell into the arms of his parents.

The family plans on letting Alvan get some rest after the long flight and then they want to hear all the details of his life during their separation.

The Triangle Red Cross says over the next few weeks it will help Alvan adjust to his new life in America.

Monday, Oct. 22, 2007

Turkish Couple Find Swapped Baby After Four-Year Search

NAJRAN — Ali and Yaqub were mistakenly switched at birth in a hospital in Najran where they were born four years ago. Ali, born into a Turkish family living in Najran, was mistakenly given to a Saudi couple whose son Yaqub was given to the Turkish family by the hospital employees, according to a report in Al-Watan newspaper.

Yusuf Jawed, 37, used to live in Najran where he owned a workshop. Yusuf described to Al-Watan newspaper how he took his wife to the King Khaled Hospital in Najran when she went into labor. It was there that his baby was switched with that of a Saudi family.

“When I first saw Yaqub, I felt he wasn’t my son. There was a very serious feeling growing inside me. I contacted the hospital several times and I met a number of officials there, but they didn’t take my suspicions seriously. One of them told me to fear God and asked how I could think such a thing,” said Yusuf, adding, “I also contacted a former manager at the hospital who also didn’t listen to me.”

After sometime, the family returned to Turkey with Yaqub. Yusuf’s extended family also felt Yaqub looked different and that it was impossible that he could be his son. Feeling uneasy, Yusuf and his wife underwent DNA tests, which confirmed that Yaqub was not the couple’s biological child.

Yusuf and his wife then decided to go back to Saudi Arabia to search for their real son. They lodged a complaint at the Ministry of Health, which in turn ordered another DNA test that proved that Yaqub was not their son.

The Interior Ministry together with the Health Ministry assigned a team to search for the Jawed family’s biological child in Najran. After sometime, it was found out that a boy with Turkish features was living in a Saudi family. The family was ordered to undergo a DNA test, the results of which have not been released yet.

“My wife considers Yaqub as her own and treats him like that. She has been doing so for four years. My wife has also begun teaching him Arabic to help him when he is reunited with his family,” said Yusuf.

The family is currently in Saudi Arabia waiting to be reunited with their son. “Yaqub is always longing to go back to Turkey and see who he thinks are his relatives. This worries me a lot,” said Yusuf, adding that he is ready to swap Yaqub for Ali as soon as the authorities confirm that Ali is his biological son.

“I love both of them and will do my best to help them both,” he said. “We celebrated Eid Al-Fitr this year differently, as we felt it may be our last Eid with Yaqub. We went to amusement parks and tried to make him happy as much as we could,” said Yusuf.

Meanwhile, the Saudi father, who asked his name not be published, said that his family is currently going through an emotional dilemma. “We can’t really make a decision until we’re sure that Ali isn’t our biological son. That is only after the DNA results are known,” he said.

Dr. Ali Zaery, a psychiatrist, said, “An immediate swap could negatively affect the children and could be harmful to them psychologically. Both children are now integrated in their surroundings and cultures. A sudden swap could cause them psychological shock. It’s like separating a child from his or her family and then handing him or her to a strange family,” said Dr. Zaery.

He added that the children could become depressed, which could lead to separation anxiety disorder in later childhood. “The children need to be prepared for the swap, which could be done by having them visit both families. During the visits, the children should be gradually introduced to the idea that they have a second father and mother, and a second family. That would prepare the children mentally to accept the new situation,” said Dr. Zaery.

For Yusuf the wait to be reunited with his biological son is far too much to bear.

Family Reunited After 22 Years

A nightmare that lasted 22 years is now over. A Blackfoot family has been reunited after their son was allegedly kidnapped by his father and taken to Mexico.

Erasmo Martinez was raised in Mexico and always knew he had family in Blackfoot. In a strange twist of fate, he was forced to come back to the states where he ended up finding his family, 22 years later. A family a bigger than he thought.

“I had no idea where he was,” said Johnna Salinas, Erasmo’s Mother.

That was until last week.

“They stole my identity, my name and used a different picture,” Erasmo Martinez.

Martinez came to Utah to clear his name after someone stole his identity, and he knew he had family in Blackfoot, so he set out to find them.

“So he decided while he was here he would look for us and see what he could find.”

After some searching, a reunion but his search was for 2 sisters and his mom, when he caught up with the family, he found out he had another sister.

“So happy, I thought I only had 2 sisters, now I have 3,” said Martinez.

It’s larger than he thought, but he’s happy after 22 years he finally gets to know his family, and they get to meet the brother they never had, but could’ve used.

“I think our lives would’ve been different if we would’ve had a brother, we maybe wouldn’t have gotten in so much trouble, we would’ve grown different,” said Sasha Martinez, Erasmo’s youngest sister.

And the family has no hard feelings toward his father, who still lives in Mexico.

“When I seen him everything went bye bye, I mean its like I was angry, oh you bet I was angry, but now he’s here now I don’t care anymore, I got him,” said Johnna Salinas, Erasmo’s Mother.

Erasmo has only know the family for a week, but has already taken an active roll in their lives.

“He tells me what’s right and what’s wrong but if feels good, because I never had that from a brother, I had 2 sisters but not a guy figure in my life,” said Sasha Martinez.

Well the family is almost complete, Erasmo was married in Mexico a little more than a year ago, and now he’s planning to have another wedding here in Idaho, so his mom and sisters can be in it.

Inside Good News Blog