Good News Blog

Reunited

Thursday, Jul. 12, 2007

Airmen reunited after 50 years

TWO former RAF servicemen have had a reunion nearly 50 years since they last saw each other.

Conisbrough resident Brian Boyes and Reg Bamforth, of Barnsley, became friends when they started their national service as two young 21-year-olds in 1957.

They both completed their harsh ten-week “square bashing” training at the airforce barracks in West Kirby on the Wirral as part of the Churchill Squadron.

But following their passing-out parade, they were sent to different camps and never saw each other again.

Until this year, when Mr Boyes, 71, managed to track down his former comrade – just weeks shy of the 50th anniversary of them starting their national service.

Speaking from his Milner Gate home, he explained: “I had been hoping to meet up again with him for the last few years and just on the off chance I asked our friends who live in Birdwell to look for a Reg Bamforth in the phone book.

“His name was listed and I rang him up. When I told him who I was he said ‘Blimey! I never realised I would be speaking to you again’.

“Once we got chatting it was tremendous. We just started talking as though there had been no space of time between, we were talking as friends just like we were back in the airforce again.

“He came round to our house and we’ve since been out for a few meals and have been swapping memories from our time in the RAF.”

Reg, now 71, of Carlton, added:

“It was a real surprise to hear Brian again. I knew Brian used to live in Mexborough and when I’ve been through in the past I’ve often wondered if he still lives there.

“I never thought I would speak to him again but I’m glad now that we’ve become friends again.”

During his national service, Reg was trained to repair coastal aircraft and Brian worked as an instrument technician on various planes, including the famed Lancaster Bomber.

Their lives since national service have also followed a similar path. Both left the airforce after completing their two years required service and both went on to run retail shops.

Reg married and had six children and 12 grandchildren and Brian is married with three children, three grandchildren and a great-grandson.

They are now planning a party with family and friends in the near future to celebrate 50 years since the start of their national service.

Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2007

What’s a few miles – or years – among old friends

Stan Ernst, 78, left his home in Nova Scotia first thing on Saturday morning.

Alone, and without a cell phone, only a promise to update his daughter when he stopped for gas, he drove through New Brunswick into Maine, where he overnighted in a motel. He set off again early on Sunday. After nearly getting lost outside of Worcester, he finally reached Zambarano Hospital in Burrillville a few minutes past noon. He’d traveled some 750 miles.

A woman in an office told him that he might find the person he sought on the second floor. But the person wasn’t there. A nurse called the operator to have him paged. Ernst, a spry man with sparkling bespectacled eyes, took a seat in the hall.

A short while later, Frank Beazley emerged from the elevator. He’d been downstairs, playing cribbage.

“Stan!” Beazley said.

“Hi, Frank!”

Ernst hugged Beazley, and Beazley cried. He’d been expecting Ernst sometime this spring — but his last letter, about a month ago, indicated only that he might arrive in “the latter part of May.”

Ernst and Beazley, who are the same age, were boyhood friends in their native Halifax, a Canadian seaport. The precise date is lost forever, but it had been at least 54 years — and perhaps 60 or more — since they last saw each other. Beazley moved to America in 1953, but by then, he’d already drifted from Ernst and their teenaged buddies who hung out in wartime Nova Scotia, when American Westerns dominated the Saturday-afternoon matinees and fish and chips was the favored Saturday supper.

“He disappeared,” Ernst said. “No one knew where he went.”

He went to America to seek his fortune, but a fall down a flight of stairs in 1967 left him a quadriplegic and, eventually, a resident of Zambarano, now a unit of the state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital. Beazley has since become Rhode Island’s foremost advocate for the disabled, and a celebrated artist and poet.

Ernst, meanwhile, spent 45 years working in a Halifax dockyard. He married and had two children, a boy and a girl — and, never suspecting his long-lost buddy was so close, periodically visited friends who lived in Pawtucket. Ernst’s wife died of Alzheimer’s a few years ago, and now, retired, he spends much of his time volunteering at a children’s hospital and in the company of the person he calls, with a wink, his “lady friend.”

Beazley returned to Halifax in 1998, to fulfill his dream of visiting his native soil before he died — and with his uncanny knack for winding up in newspapers, he was featured in a Halifax Chronicle-Herald column. Ernst read it after Beazley had returned to Rhode Island, and he wrote his old friend. Beazley wrote back. A regular correspondence ensued, but they never spoke on the phone. Ernst had it in his mind that he’d like to visit, and when he read the story of Beazley’s life, “TheGrowing Season,” published last fall in The Providence Journal, he decided it was time. Not wanting to travel in winter, he vowed to make it this spring.

“My daughter said, ‘Dad, you’re crazy to go all that way by yourself,’ but I said, ‘I’ve made him a promise. And I’m keeping it.’ ”

Beazley’s tears dried and the two set off on a tour of the hospital, Beazley’s home for 40 years. Beazley showed Ernst some of his art, which decorates walls. He introduced Ernst to hospital staff, patients and visiting family members.

“He’s from Nova Scotia,” Beazley said. “We chummed around 54 years ago.”

“My!”

Ernst warmed to the occasion. “I always say I live in the best province in the best country in the world. That’s how I feel about Nova Scotia. She’s a great place!”

The two friends went to the first floor, to the main waiting room, a darkly paneled space, where Beazley sat while Ernst went to his car. He was carrying a small package when he returned. He opened it.

“Here’s a Nova Scotia flag for you.”

“Look at that! That’s beautiful! You know something? I have a Canadian dollar which I’ll show you that I gave to my girlfriend — she was from Nova Scotia — I was engaged to be married to her …”

They fell back into memories then, as the first sun of a dreary weekend lit up the room. Yesterday, Ernst returned for a second visit before heading back north in the afternoon.

“It’s a dream,” Beazley said. “A dream come true.”

“It makes me feel wonderful that I mean that much to him,” Ernst said.

Thursday, Jul. 5, 2007

Family reunited after 39 years

A poignant story with a happy ending… Family members separated nearly 40 years ago have been reunited just in time.

Thirty-nine years ago Larry Kittrell’s wife left him and took his twin daughters with her.
He’s been searching for them ever since.
Kittrell says, “I’ve been hoping and praying for them everyday and night that things work out good for them and that we could be together and be a happy family together.”

Life has not been easy for Larry or his girls, now 42 years old.

Larry is dying from lung cancer and doesn’t have a home. The twins, Bonnie and Connie, are developmentally disabled.

Since the twins were separated from their father: their mother died, they were forced to move apart and they have been abused.

The family had lost all hope…until now.

Larry said, “The good Lord he brought them to me with the help of the preacher and his wife.”
Pastor Marty Campo wanted to help Larry see his daughters again.

It took months of research; finally he was able to bring this family back together.
He says he was just doing God’s work.

Pastor Campo said, “Larry’s got a new hope and he’s got a new spirit and he’s got a new attitude and the girls do and the family’s just back together.”

Larry said, “I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been since I have something to live for now.”

One of his daughters, Bonnie says, “I was excited because I wanted to know things about him. I wanted to know what he looked like.”

The family is in the process of buying a place to live together.

Bonnie said, “when we all get into that trailer it’s going to be exciting we will get to see daddy everyday and spend time with him. I’m going to help take care of dad.”

Doctors told Larry he only had six months to live and that was nearly seven months ago.

After being reunited with his daughters, Larry says he feels better than ever and hopes he’ll live many more years.

Wednesday, Jul. 4, 2007

Siblings reunited as 60 years melts away

AFTER nearly 60 years apart, they could be forgiven if they didn’t quite recognise each other.

The last time this brother and sister saw each other was 1949, just a few years after the end of World War Two.

But this week Bournemouth grandfather Colin Booker was re-united with his long lost sister Barbara after travelling up to Reading for the day.

Colin Booker, 86, a former Wireless Communications Corporal during the war, of Cromwell Road, Southbourne, said: “I was thrilled to bits and it was very exciting to see Barbara again.

“For a while we were just speechless but we soon got to know each other.

“I didn’t recognise her at first as it is very difficult going back over such a life span.
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“There’s a huge difference between a young lady in her late teens and someone who is in their late 70s.

“I never would have recognised her unless we had been introduced.

“The geographical distance between us makes it a little bit awkward but we are nevertheless eager to meet up again.”

The pair’s family was split in two more than half a century ago after Colin fell in love with a divorced woman after returning from Germany at the end of the war.

Back then such a relationship was seen as scandalous and after marrying his sweetheart, Rita, the pair moved to Alveston in Bristol, where he lost contact with his four brothers and three sisters.

Younger sister Barbara Whitlam, 78, a former accounts clerk, of Reading, said: “The last time I saw my brother was 60 years ago when I was about 20.

“It was very exciting seeing him again and we have a lot in common.

“I remember him playing the piano beautifully, all the old favourites, and he was very good at drawing.

“We will be keeping in touch a lot more now and I plan to come down to Bournemouth in September.”

The siblings got in contact after Colin’s daughter tried tracing relatives on an internet site in Barry, Wales, where the family originated from.

A cousin got in contact four years ago and also put Colin in contact with his 76-year-old brother Eric from Barry Island, who he met for the first time last summer.

Friday, Jun. 29, 2007

Russian Sisters Reunited Through Adoption

A family in Kamas tonight has reason to celebrate. Two little girls recently adopted from Russia are now U.S. citizens. More than that, they are part of a family they had dreamed and prayed for. The family has adopted four siblings and reunited sisters who were separated for years.

Fifteen-year-old Emily and her 14-year-old sister Annie have new American names and certificates of citizenship.

John Simmons, their adoptive father, said, “Nobody can lead a life unchanged after watching kids leave an orphanage and come into a family and to watch them appreciate a family like nobody else can.”

The two girls were reunited with their two younger sisters last October. The Simmons had three biological sons before they adopted Jack, who has Down Syndrome. Then, in 2005, the Simmons adopted three orphaned children from Russia, little Celeste and Sarah who are sisters, and a boy, Denny, who was not related.

They were completing the adoption for the younger children when they learned of the two older girls, and though they did not plan to adopt more, were haunted by the thought of the two sisters still living in a Russian orphanage.

“Is this something we can do? Something we can do to help out because the odds of their survival is very bleak in Russia for them,” Amy Simmons wondered.

In Russia the girls were taken from their biological parents because of abuse and neglect, but now they’re reunited and are part of loving family, and they are flourishing.

The Simmons says international adoption is an emotional rollercoaster, but seeing their happy family makes it all the more worthwhile.

John said, “You go through the extremes in frustration, the extremes in anger, sadness and happiness, and it’s just incredible.”

“And for them to be able to be with their sisters and to have the opportunity to have a very full productive life, is wonderful to see,” Amy said.

Now this family of 11 shares a life of hope, happiness and most of all, love. The Simmons hope that others will consider international adoption, and they have just completed a book about their experiences, called “The Marvelous Journey Home.”

Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2007

WWII vet reunited with medical field unit

The first time U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel John Von Der Brugge was with employees of the University of Kansas Medical Center, it was on the battlefield during the European Theatre in World War II.

Last week, another meeting was held in a more pleasant setting.

Brugge, who was severely wounded during World War II, was saved by the 77th Evacuation Unit, which consisted primarily of doctors and nurses from KU Med Center.

The center hosted a ceremony Friday which reunited Brugge and the evacuation unit.

His injury occurred in late March 1945, a month after the famous Battle of the Bulge campaign, Nazi Germany’s last offensive mission during World War II.

“I was a 19-year-old parachutist,” he said. “My thoughts at the time were very limited. I was well-trained. My main thought was to get to the guy with the moustache (Adolf Hitler) so we could finish and go home. We were making the drive to Berlin.”

Before the war, Brugge was hoping to take part in a baseball career, something the wound in his right leg would prevent. The injury nearly cost Brugge his leg.

While Brugge said he’d always remember the doctors who aided him when injured, he’ll especially remember the voice of one person.

“A voice of a nurse,” he said. “It was very comforting and very soothing. That is what I remember most about the event. I always felt while the doctor put me back together, it was the nurse that probably did the most important thing.”

The 77th Evacuation Hospital Unit was organized by Dr. Edward Hashinger. The unit would leave the United States and originally set up a hospital in North Africa, and would eventually follow Allied forces throughout France, Belgium and eventually Germany.

The unit found incredible stress during the Battle of the Bulge, which began in December 1944 and concluded two months later. The front line was pushed back enough to force wounded soldiers to walk into the hospital.

“I was essentially one of the two youngest of the group,” said James McConchie, a KU School of Medicine graduate from 1941 and the lone surviving doctor remaining from the unit.

McConchie said the unit primarily followed the army of Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., one of the most successful generals in World War II.

“I was the last one to join in the unit because I was the last one to join as an intern,” he said. “I was given a choice of what to do and I did radiological. I had some experience in the field.”

Following the war, Brugge took army commission and started the ROTC program at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

When the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel in Korea, Brugge was in Japan.

“Five years and five months after when I was wounded in Germany, you beg to wonder if that was the nature of life,” he said.

He said his only “backflashes” result from his plane being shot down in Europe during the way.

“I had to bail out yards before we went down,” he said. “Many planes were shot down.”

Brugge was originally born in Jefferson City, Mo., and currently resides in Texas.

The reunion was set up with officials in both the Brugge family and the medical center. Initially, officials from KU Medical Center had planned to interview him when the idea of a reunion was suggested.

The 77th Evacuation Hospital Unit was released from service following the conclusion of battle in Europe in early May 1945. No single member of the unit was lost during the battle, and only one member of the Red Cross within the unit was killed.

Thursday, May. 24, 2007

Father, Daughter Reunited after 23 years

James Howard from New Berlin met his biological daughter, Patti Taylor, for the first time in almost 23 years Tuesday at Mitchell International Airport.

They reconnected over the Internet. Patti tracked her biological father down just before Easter.

Howard, 46, is thrilled they were finally able to meet. “Your life aint that important to turn your back on your child. I know. I’ve been there, and for 23 years the guilt I carried around was a lot and I don’t want that guilt. I don’t want another parent to go through the same thing that I went through.”

Howard saw Patti for the first time at the hospital in Virginia where she was born. He says he was 22 at the time and had already broken off his six-month relationship with Patti’s mother.

Howard says both the mother and her family wanted nothing to do with him.

Howard moved to Wisconsin in 1994, got married and now has three children with his wife, Rebecca.

Patti attends college in Virginia. She’s tried off and on for years to locate her father but ran into mostly dead ends. She knew her father’s name and knew where he went to school. Then this spring she logged onto the school reunion Web site – Classmates.com – and quickly found her biological father.

Patti’s looking forward to spending time with her two new half brothers and a half sister.

Wednesday, May. 23, 2007

Babies switched at birth now reunited

Two babies switched at birth at the Med were recently reunited.

It was an emotional story we first told you about almost a decade ago about two babies that were switched at birth. In a recent interview on “Live at Nine”, Kevin and Bridget Merriwether told us they hadn’t seen the other child involved in the switch since they were all in the hospital. But that’s now changed.

Last week, the Merriwether’s told us they have reunited with the other mother and her child Marcus. They tell us the two boys get along just fine.

Back in 1998, Bridget Merriwether discovered after a day of caring for another child that it wasn’t the baby she delivered. The other mother, Ladonna Harris, was furious.

Harris ran out of the Med claiming she wasn’t going to take the baby home. She wanted Merriwether’s baby.

Thursday, May. 10, 2007

Reunited after 66 years

THE first time they met, she was an 18-year-old nurse and he was a two-day-old abandoned baby.

John Hilton, now 66, was left on a railway platform wrapped in a woollen shawl inside a cardboard box. Critically ill, he spent three years in hospital before being adopted.

John’s story, revealed in the M.E.N., caught the eye of grandmother-of-eight Annie Mills.

But the link was only established when Age Concern began to trace Annie’s life history for a project at Springfield House Nursing Home, in Oldham.

It emerged that Annie, now 84, was the nurse who cared for orphan John – and yesterday the memories came flooding back as they met for the first time in 66 years.

Abandoned

Annie only recalled that one of the orphans she looked after at Boundary Park Hospital, Oldham, had been abandoned at Oldham Mumps station.

Age Concern managed to trace John, who went to live in Wigan when he was adopted, and the meeting was arranged.

John, a former mayor of Wigan and still a councillor for Aspull, said: “It is another little chapter that has been filled in my life.

“It was Annie’s job to look after the little orphans and it is staggering that she can remember me.

“I owe her a debt of gratitude and it was fantastic to see her.”

Annie said: “He was a wonderful little baby. I always thought he was a cut above the rest.

“I wanted my mother to adopt him, but she said she had enough children already.

“He was a perfect little boy and it was great to see him.”

Wednesday, May. 2, 2007

Mother, daughters reunited after nearly 15 years

Shopping for tank tops. Watching DVDs on the couch. Cooking dinner. Giggling late at night.

Ordinary things.

That’s really all Rhonda Wright of San Jose, Calif., and her three teenage girls, Rowaida, Reema and Roedana, have felt like doing this month. Almost 15 years after their father whisked them away to Jordan – years marked by lies and heartbreak and abuse – Wright’s daughters are finally home, and the way they see it these days, quiet moments are precious moments.

“I just want to have a family, a settled family,” said Wright, 50. “Not one that’s torn apart.”

“Me, too,” her eldest daughter, Roedana Riehani, 19, echoed quietly. “Me, too.”

The sisters were taken to live with their father’s family in 1992, the fallout from a messy custody battle that began when the twins were 3 1/2 and Roedana was 5.

Finally, old enough to claim their destinies and in hopes of a better life, the young women managed to flee their Jordanian relatives. With the help of the State Department, they flew into San Francisco International Airport, and into their sobbing mother’s arms, March 15.

The past month has been both gratifying and challenging for the family. Not only do mother and daughters have a lot to learn about each other, but there are cultural gaps to overcome, too. Sometimes they do both at the same time.

One melancholy night, for instance, Wright had no idea she had hurt Reema’s feelings when her daughter asked to be left alone. Wright did what she was asked. Reema wasn’t expecting that. One of her aunts in Jordan, she later explained, would have come back anyway to snuggle with her and bring her food.

The girls also are learning to get along with Wright’s live-in boyfriend, Dre Burgie, 33, an African-American rapper whose name is tattooed on their mother’s chest. He was the first black person they remember meeting. And then there are the little things. In Al-Husson, the city in Jordan where the girls lived, the vistas are made mostly of sand. In San Jose, the girls note happily, green is everywhere, from the treetops to the hills.

“We’ve been so very happy,” said Reema, 18. “We can’t believe now that we’re with Mom.”

Wright added: “We’re all still pinching ourselves. I just stare at them and can’t believe they’re here.”

“Here” is a modest four-bedroom condominium in San Jose’s Berryessa neighborhood. The sisters share a bedroom – the twins in a queen bed and Roedana in a twin bed inches away. The home’s focal points are the soft tan couch facing the large TV screen, and the kitchen, where the women often prepare dinner together. Sometimes Roedana will roll out Arabic dumplings, or they’ll make a soul food dish for Wright’s boyfriend.

On most days, the pace is slow. The twins attend an English class once a week. On other days, they might make a picnic. Mostly there’s a lot of sitting around, just catching up.

The sisters easily call Wright “Mom.” And Mom hugs her girls whenever she can.

“The girls told me that they always prayed, `Just give us one day back with our mom and we’ll be happy,'” Wright said.

Back in 1992, after 11 years of marriage, Wright split from the girls’ father, Emad Riehani, a Jordanian warehouse worker whom she met through a mutual friend. The second of Wright’s three ex-husbands, Riehani was a nice guy, but “misdirected,” Wright recalled, saying he slapped her around and sometimes drank too much and did cocaine.

When they divorced, the couple agreed the girls would be better off with Riehani, at least for a while, while Wright got settled in a new home. She acknowledged that she, too, had periodic drug binges, with crank and crack.

But as Wright tells it, there was a bureaucratic mix-up in the signing of the custody papers, and an order that would have forbidden Riehani to leave the country with their girls was mistakenly left off the paperwork. So, only five months after the divorce, he took the girls to Jordan, without Wright’s knowledge, and left them with his parents and siblings, only to return to San Jose himself, visiting once a year with armfuls of gifts. Wright says she enlisted the help of San Jose police, filing a report. But because of the murky legal situation, Riehani was never charged with kidnapping.

Even after their father died in 1996, the sisters couldn’t leave Jordan. They were still minors, and Jordanian law awards custody of children to paternal relatives. For her part, Wright felt she couldn’t move to, or even visit, Jordan, a country where she didn’t speak the language or a have a job, and where she feared terrorism and relatives who she assumed hated her.

Life was difficult for the girls. They were raised by their grandparents, and then an aunt an uncle who made them come straight home after school and allowed them to date only Catholics, like themselves. When Roedana and Reema were caught with Muslim boyfriends, the sisters said, they were beaten by their relatives. Once, Roedana said, she was chained to her bedpost for three days.

Communication between mother and daughters was sporadic at best. Wright said she tried calling over the years, but relatives would repeatedly say the girls were busy, or out. There was no computer where the girls lived, and it wasn’t until last summer, when Roedana went off to college, that she could e-mail her mother. They had exchanged addresses in one of their rare phone conversations.

That’s when Wright and Roedana hatched a plan. Roedana found their passports, hidden in her aunt’s ceiling panels, and the U.S. Embassy bought the sisters plane tickets to San Francisco in March. Soon after, the three sneaked off.

U.S. State Department spokesman Steve Royster confirmed his agency assisted Wright’s family, but he declined to give details.

The moment Wright saw her daughter’s faces – they have her square jaw and their father’s dark eyes – she said it felt like they had never been apart. Now, Roedana hopes to study pharmacy, and the twins want to finish high school.

It will be rocky, though. Wright has little money since going on worker’s compensation after injuring her back two years ago. But the reunited family is content to seek out simple pleasures, whether it be air hockey at Dave and Buster’s in Milpitas, Calif., or meeting relatives they’ve never known.

“I just want to enjoy every moment,” Roedana said. “I want to start from zero, forget the bad in the past and become a new person. I’ve lost a lot.”

Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2007

After 40 years classmates are reunited through Foster Grandparent Program

Sara Reynolds and Rebecca Copeland-Rowland were classmates at Lucy Addison High School in the mid 1960s.

Although both still live in Roanoke, they had not seen each other since high school. That changed one day in early November.

Both Reynolds and Copeland-Rowland had applied for volunteer positions with the League of Older American’s Foster Grandparent program. Sitting next to each other during their orientation to the program they had a chance to visit and realized they knew each other.

After a nice reunion catching up on old times, they are both currently volunteering, Reynolds is volunteering at the Downtown Learning Center and Copeland-Rowland at Brand-Hardin-Sims Head Start Child Development Center.

LOA’s Foster Grandparents volunteer at non-profit child care centers, public schools and Head Start Centers helping children develop the skills, confidence and strength to succeed in life.

Thursday, Apr. 19, 2007

Mother reunited with son after 60 years

If there’s one memory Anna Rogers wanted to hold on to from her experiences during the Second World War, it was her son.

Ms. Rogers, 89, lost touch with him when she was ordered to leave her native Poland and was sent to a labour camp in Austria more than 60 years ago.

Finally, last Wednesday, the Sunderland resident had more than a memory of a nine-month-old baby to embrace when she was reunited with her only child, Andrzej Piekarski of Poland at Pearson International Airport.

Now 64, a jovial Mr. Piekarski hugged his mother, who had been waiting for him anxiously alongside Red Cross officials, and the two smiled at each other lovingly.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said in Polish through Red Cross translator Ola Smaga.

Before being sent off to the labour camp, Ms. Rogers left her infant son with her mother-in-law, because her husband and other relatives had already become casualties of war. Mr. Piekarski explained he searched for his mother for more than 50 years, almost giving up. But his mother made first contact with him via a phone call.

“Do you know who this is on the other side of the phone?” Mr. Piekarski recalled his mother’s first words to him in over half a century.

With a smile, he added that he wrote down his mother’s phone number improperly and spent another month trying to reach her again.

When he did, the two talked regularly on the phone for three months leading up to the meeting, to break down the language barrier. Ms. Roger’s ability to speak Polish had slipped over the years and Mr. Piekarski doesn’t speak English.

After the war, Ms. Rogers could not retrieve her son and fled to Italy, eventually ending up in Great Britain, the U.S. and then Canada 45 years ago.

Mr. Piekarski contacted the Polish Red Cross last year to aid in her search.

Radmila Rokvic-Pilipovic, a Canadian Red Cross zone co-ordinator, explained that search filtered through other Red Cross units in Germany, Britain, and then to the national co-ordinator in British Columbia.

“The Germans kept really good records during the (Second World War),” she explained.

“After the war, we got all the information from the camps.”

Ms. Rogers had enlisted help of neighbours to use the Internet and library resources to track her son down, making phone calls to Poland with no luck. The two had stepped up their efforts to locate one another at the same time.

“It was a meeting of the minds,” the mother said.

Mr. Piekarski said he will stay with his mother in Sunderland for about a month, with no definite plans in mind.

“It’s like a blind date. I’ve no idea what to do.”

Back home, Mr. Piekarski has a wife and two children aged 29 and 14.

“Suddenly I have a big family,” said Ms. Rogers.

The Red Cross ‘Restoring Family Links’ program helps Canadians re-establish contact with family following wars and disasters. There is a network of 183 Red Cross societies throughout the world that is used to locate individuals being sought by loved ones.

Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2007

Woman finds lost brother – in same office

A BROTHER and sister have been reunited after 18 years when they discovered they worked in the same office.

Siblings Kay Lund and her half-brother Steven Philips could not believe their luck when a chance encounter at their workplace in Bradford brought them together for the first time since 1989.

Miss Lund, 23, who had spent the last five years searching for her older brother, said: “It is absolutely unbelievable to think I had been looking everywhere for Steven and we had been working in the same building for five months.

“It is like some kind of soap opera story line. It’s like our own little miracle.”

Mr Philips, 33, and Miss Lund last saw each other almost two decades ago after their father, also called Stephen, 56, lost contact with his son, who was from a previous relationship.

Miss Lund, who was only six at the time, moved to India with her father and mother Rose, while 16-year-old Steven lived with his mother in Wolverhampton.

By the time Miss Lund and her parents returned to Leeds, the family had lost all contact with Mr Philips.

On turning 18 she started a campaign to track down her long-lost half-brother, even asking customers at the lingerie shop in which she worked if they knew him.

But despite checking on internet sites such as Friends Reunited and MySpace it was not until the pair started working together at Loop Customer Management that she tracked him down, last month.

She said: “When I started working at Loop I went through my usual routine of asking everyone if they knew a Steven Philips.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was told someone by that name worked here.

“My colleague pointed to a man at a desk on the other side of the room. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but squinting I could see a man with grey hair and his back to me. I thought ‘No, there’s no way that could be him’.

“I then checked on the internal database which confirmed he wasn’t my brother as he spelled his name Steven and not Stephen. It turns out that I was looking at the wrong guy and Steven – who changed the spelling himself – was stood next to him.

“It wasn’t until a colleague came up to me and said I think Steven’s your brother. We checked parents’ names and it turned out we were related. I wanted to scream and shout but we were in work so we just hugged and chatted.”

Mr Philips, a father-of- four, said he was delighted, adding: “I’d resigned myself to the fact that we would probably never meet again.

“I can’t wait to get to know my sister properly. We have so much to catch up on and I’m sure we are going to be great friends.”

Friday, Apr. 13, 2007

60 years later, Mother, son finally reunited

A mother who had her nine-month-old son ripped from her arms when German forces invaded Poland more than 60 year ago had a smile on her face yesterday when she was reunited with him in Toronto.

“That’s my son,” Anna Rogers said when she saw Andrzej Piekarski for the first time since she was forced into a labour camp in Austria 63 years ago.

Piekarski was handed over to her mother-in-law to look after because his father previously had been killed by the Nazis for his role as a partisan in the Polish underground.

During the war, his grandmother passed away and he then was left in the care of two women eager to enjoy his paternal inheritance.

After the war ended, Rogers had made her way safely to London and sent for her son. Unfortunately for Piekarski, his new guardians refused to give up their new-found riches.

“He was the heir to real estate,” Rogers said.

Her son then grew up in Poland, away from his mother, but he never gave up looking for her.

For more than 50 years, he searched for her, sending off inquiries to every agency and government he knew—but he faced many challenges.

His mother moved to Canada in 1954, and she had remarried and anglicized her name. Meanwhile, the women who raised him offered no help at all—they even hid his mother’s letters.

It was only once one of them was on her death bed that he learned of his mother’s undying love.

After contacting the Polish Red Cross, and turning over a few more unturned stones along with the help of the British Red Cross, he determined she had immigrated to North America, but wasn’t sure if it was to Canada or the United States.

However, he finally got a lucky break—a third-party had tracked Rogers to a home in Sunderland, Ont., about 100 km northeast of Toronto.

Last October, contact was made by the third-party and the two spoke on the phone.

“Andrzej,’’ she said when speaking to him for the first time. “Do you know who this is?”

Since speaking for the first time, the two talked by phone every couple of days until they had the chance to meet in person at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

“She looks wonderful,” Piekarski said of the chance to finally meet his mother. “It’s a dream come true. I never thought I would be able to find her.”

“I am so happy,” agreed Rogers, now approaching her 90s. “My son is all right. I am all right. And I get to see him again before I die.”

Monday, Apr. 9, 2007

Youngster is reunited with his life-savers

A YOUNG lad who came close to death in a car racing accident has been reunited with the volunteer medics who saved him.
The last time the St John Ambulance team saw Chris Stewart, 12, he was in intensive care.

The youngster’s skull had become separated from his spine in the accident.

But without their quick actions at Tongham race track, near Alton, last September, where Chris had been taking part in an autograss race, he would not have survived.

The team was reunited with Chris, from Gosport Road, Fareham, at a party his family organised to say thank you and raise cash for everyone who helped him in his recovery.

Richard Coleman, team leader for Alton St John Ambulance, said: ‘He’s an amazing boy. When we found out the extent of his injuries we didn’t expect him to survive. His recovery has been absolutely miraculous.’

Chris’s mum, Debbie Stewart, added: ‘It was great to see the whole team from St John Ambulance – some of them were getting quite teary-eyed, it was a bit emotional.’

Thursday, Apr. 5, 2007

Reunited and it feels so good

Maybe because she’s told the story so many times, Lori Williams doesn’t get emotional anymore when she talks about losing her five children.

She calmly recounts living in the back of a sweltering minivan during last summer’s heat wave, of standing in line at 5 a.m. with other homeless folks, jostling for first dibs on a low-paying, temporary job.

Of having a newspaper columnist tell her he suspected she and her husband were swindlers, telling them he wasn’t interested in another “hard luck” story.

Her voice doesn’t even waver as she describes “the dreaded phone call” that informed her that Bucks County Children and Youth had taken custody of her kids.

But she was gushing tears Thursday as a banquet room full of the very people she had butted heads with for more than a year gave her family a standing ovation.

“I don’t even have words,” she said, trembling at the podium.

Williams and her husband, Jason Hallett, both 37, of Bristol Township, are the 2006 recipients of the Resiliency Award in the family category. The annual award is presented by a coalition of more than a dozen local social-service agencies at the Bucks County Resiliency Conference and Family Expo.

Children and Youth caseworker Danel Williams – no relation to Lori – and May McDonnell, a Children and Youth supervisor, nominated the family.

“When I first met Lori, she went up one side of me and down the other,” Williams laughed, recalling the day he was assigned to investigate claims the couple was neglecting their children.

“It was a bit rocky at first. But once I got to know this family, I realized that they were the real deal,” he said.

A self-described “aggressive personality,” Lori is candid about the circumstances that led to the family being torn apart last year.

Fearing she was going to be arrested for owing more than $13,000 in child support for her 14- and 16-year-old children from a previous relationship, Lori sent her five younger children to live with her parents while she and Jason hid out in a motel.

She said she was planning to turn herself in and was just buying some time. She believes a family member tipped off authorities, and soon, deputy sheriffs were banging on the motel door. Lori was whisked off to prison in York County, where her child support case originated.

During her two weeks in jail, Jason missed work. He got fired. They were accused of missing a rent payment on their Bensalem apartment (an allegation they deny) and were padlocked out of their home. They lost all their belongings.

“I was walking around in the parking lot with five kids. I didn’t know what to do,” Jason said.

The children went back with Lori’s parents. Allegations of neglect were made, and Children and Youth was called. The children were later moved to foster homes.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening to us,” Lori said. “We don’t abuse our kids; we’re not on drugs. I considered us to be good parents. How dare these people come in and say we’re not?”

By state law, Children and Youth must investigate all reports of child abuse and neglect. Lori and Jason said the 26 allegations were made by a family member and all later turned out to be unfounded. Children and Youth officials won’t discuss details of specific cases.

The agency gave Lori and Jason a list of goals to accomplish before they could regain custody of their five kids. Get jobs. Find housing. Anger management counseling. Parenting classes.

The couple took whatever jobs they could get, lining up each morning at Labor Ready in Bristol Township to work as day laborers.

They lived inside their minivan with no air conditioning as the temperature soared past 100 degrees. They washed their bodies with buckets of water in the woods, slept in apartment complex parking lots and tried to save cash for an apartment.

“And while they’re living in the van, they’re calling agencies, setting up conference calls on their cell phone when the kids were having trouble at the foster home,” Danel Williams said. “In a van. In the heat.”

Lori and Jason spent all their free time knocking on doors, asking churches, politicians, anyone they thought could help them.

“I’m saying, ‘Help me, I want my kids back.’ No one would listen,” Lori said.

Lori and Jason said they grew weary of the condescending tone in people’s voices, and the look they got as a bi-racial couple.

“There’s still a lot of racism in this area,” Lori said. “People believe you’re on crack, or that you did something really bad for the county to take your kids. No one wants to give you a chance.”

When a newspaper columnist handed Jason a list of the same agencies they had already tried, Lori said she felt insulted.
“I was so mad. But you know what? I think that gave me the extra umph I needed to get through it all,” she said.

Their next stop was then-Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s office. His staff set her up with a housing agency, and soon they were moving into a low-rent townhouse in the Bloomsdale section of Bristol Township.

One of the first things Lori did was unpack all her kids’ framed certificates, one of the few things they were able to save when they lost their apartment.

The awards – more than 50 in all, for student of the month, good citizenship, honor roll and other achievements – cover one wall of their tidy townhouse, floor to ceiling. In the bright morning light, tiny fingerprints are visible on the glass.

The couple accomplished everything on their to-do list in less than 10 months. Children and Youth estimates that it takes most parents 15 to 20 months to complete the process. Their children were returned, although the agency still keeps tabs on the family.

“I was still angry at Children and Youth, but I came to a realization that if I didn’t turn my anger into something positive, I was never going to see my kids,” Lori said.

It was during Children and Youth’s Parenting Partners Education Program that Lori found her hidden talent. Most of the people in the eight-week parenting classes are court-ordered to be there.

And like Lori and Jason, most of them are very angry. With her tell-it-like-it-is manner, Lori was a natural to lead discussions.
“The first thing you hear people in the classes say is, ‘You don’t know what I’ve been through.’ I say, oh yeah? I hated Children and Youth, too. I hate what they put me through,” Lori said. “But I survived, and you can, too.”

Lori was such a hit that when the class ended, counselors asked her to come back and help out a future group of parents. Children and Youth invited her to speak to groups of social workers, then foster parents.

At the awards ceremony Thursday, McDonnell infor-med Lori that she’s been hired to teach future parenting classes at the American Red Cross homeless shelter.

Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2007

Woman reunited with siblings after 42 years

A woman and her siblings, who were separated 42 years ago when they were put into foster care, have been reunited.

Gloria Brown of Fort Wayne was reacquainted recently with two brothers and one of her two sisters. She hadn’t seen them since she was 3 years old and living in Illinois.

‘‘I was crying and nervous,” Brown, 45, told The News-Sentinel for a Tuesday story.

Brown spent her early childhood in Kankakee, Ill., with her mother, grandmother and four older siblings. Epilepsy made Brown’s mother unable to care for the children, so her grandmother and oldest sister, Josephine, were caregivers. When Brown was 3, Josephine was burned in a cooking accident, and the children were put into foster care, she says.

Brown, now a mother of four, spent time in four foster homes, but she never lost her desire to reunite with her biological family. She contacted national talk shows for help, as well as the doctor who delivered her. A search online connected her with a woman who had known her in childhood.

Late last month, the woman called her with the phone number of Brown’s brother, George. When the siblings connected, her brother said, ‘‘Sit down, baby sister.”

Turns out, George and her other brother, Willie James, had been searching for family members for years.

‘‘She was ecstatic,” said Gloria Brown’s daughter, Terressa.

‘‘A heavy load was lifted off my heart,” George Brown said. ‘‘(Before) it was the agony of realizing that you have family out there somewhere that loves you and you can’t reach out there and touch them.”

Gloria Brown’s brothers and sister, Thelma, live in Chicago, and she talks on the phone with them daily. Still, a void remains. They have yet to find their mother and their oldest sister, Josephine.

‘‘I am still kind of numb,” Gloria Brown said. ‘‘When you’re missing a piece of you and find it, it’s a great thing.”

Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2007

Reunited after 60 years thanks to newspaper letter

A brother and sister have been reunited after more than 60 years, thanks to a letter in the Welwyn and Hatfield Times.

For years John Hannant kept a photograph of his long-lost sister, hoping they would meet again.

Margery, the eldest of three children, had signed up to the RAF as part of the war effort, when John was still a baby.

The family lost touch and as the decades passed only a single letter gave a clue to her whereabouts.

The clue was enough for a WHT reader to recognise Margery and put the family back in touch.

John, 67, said he had been searching for a long time and a friend suggested writing to the paper.

“That’s the one that made it, the letter to your paper a few months back,” he said.

“It’s like a dream come true.

“The last time we ever heard from Margery was in 1953 after the floods.

“She wrote home to know if we were all right.

“My sister Dorothy wrote back, but Margery had moved again and never got the letter.”

Having retired from his job as gardener at Park House on the royal estate at Sandringham, Mr Hannant decided to take action once and for all.

He and wife Doreen, travelled to Margery’s home in Chelwood Avenue, Hatfield, which she shares with husband Jack Cooke.

Now 88, she was recuperating after several months in hospital, but immediately recognised her brother.

John said: “At first it was emotional.

“It’s something I never thought was going to happen, but I always hoped it would, because I wanted to find out for sure.”

As well as finding his sister, John has also discovered he now has a nephew, niece and six great-nieces and nephews.

Tuesday, Mar. 6, 2007

Sisters reunited

In 2006, Dr. Pauline Mullings, counselling psychologist and teacher, was reunited with her estranged sisters of 41 years after the publication of her life story in this magazine.

The sisters had been conducting separate searches on both sides of the Atlantic and were not successful, until an employee of the Jamaican High Commission in London saw Dr. Mullings’ story in Outlook and brought them together.

Dr. Pauline Mullings recalls that she had met her sisters for the first and only time 41 years ago, when her mother, Mildred Jones, “told me that my two sisters were to going to migrate to England and that she had decided that she would not allow them to leave without meeting me.”

Mildred Jones took Pauline to Trench Town where her sisters – one born the same year as she was – lived.

“I remember clearly how we played and played that day. (But), they left the very next day. I never heard of, or from them, again.”

Searching in london

As Pauline grew older and went to London on visits, she would ask people she knew to put her search on radio and in the newspaper, but it was always without results.

Across the Atlantic, her sister Pamela Mullings-Ferguson was also ready to give up. But, in summer 2006, she was in London visiting relatives when she was told about a genealogy centre which could help. She extended her stay by two weeks for the new search, but found nothing because she could not even recall her sister’s first name.

Dr. Mullings reports, “She got up the last day of the search and said she could not do this any more. She stood in streets and cried. She also prayed.”

She said, “If my sister is dead, I can’t do anything about it, but if she is alive please take care of her.”

It was after saying this prayer that Pamela remembered that the Jamaican embassy was across the road from the genealogy centre. She thought at first that it did not make sense to go there but a persistent voice, her sister reports, said she should. Pamela Mullings-Ferguson walked into the Jamaican embassy and told the male receptionist, “My mother is Olive Mullings and my father is Kenneth Mullings who died in Kendal crash. I am trying to find my little sister.”

Asked what is her sisters name, she said she did not know, but the mention of the Kendal crash had triggered a memory in the receptionist’s mind.

He went into his archives and came with a printed article with a picture. Covering the name with his hand, he said, “look at this picture, do you think she looks like sister?

With one look, Pamela Mullings-Ferguson screamed and started crying, “that’s my sister” repeatedly.

It was only two days before that the receptionist had read the article on the Internet for the very first time (the article was then one year and seven months old – after publication on February 13, 2005).

The story of the counsellor was still fresh in his mind and when Pamela mentioned the name Kenneth Mullings and the Kendal Crash, he figured that Pamela and Pauline were related.

The embassy employee gave Mullings-Ferguson all the information he could find on Dr. Pauline Mullings, looking up telephone number for Kingston High School, as well as her home number and the telephone number for her church in the Jamaican directory.

Dr. Mullings recalls, “I went to work the Thursday before school reopened in August 2006 and the secretary said to me, “Dr. Mullings, I have good news for you – your sister Pamela called.”

Dr. Mullings’ response was to start crying, to the dismay of the school secretary who said, “Please don’t cry because you sister cried yesterday when I told her you worked here in the same office. She left you a telephone number.”

Taking the telephone number, Dr. Mullings placed a call in the evening to Pamela’s home where tears and screams made up the bulk of the initial conversation.

Later, that same night, the three sisters linked on the phone again. “We started talking from 9 p.m. At about 10 minutes past 12 when they were into the September 1 – the anniversary of our father’s death – Pauline pointed this out to the sisters and the three started crying again.

The women are very near in age. Pamela, born in September, is 51. Pauline and Sonya, born in April of the same year, are 50.

Dr. Mullings states, “When dad died I was 11 months old. Both mothers have told us that he took very good care of us. He was a kind loving person. He was always well dressed and he was very handsome. When he died he was working at the Gleaner company in the printery as an apprentice.”

The sisters made their plans and on October 11, 2006 they met in Toronto, Canada. Pauline Mullings was greeted with a bouquet of pink roses. The womens’ mother first came forward to greet her then her sisters were there with their cameras.

“The moment came when we were able to physically touch each other and we were laughing and crying,” recalls Dr. Mullings, who also comments that “we were so bonded.”

The sisters spent 11 days together but Pamela and Sonya Mullings-Hopwood were not satisfied, asking Pauline to return with her daughter Lori-Ann. She went back to Toronto in December.

Since their meeting in October, the sisters speak every day on the telephone. Pamela and Sonya are delighted as before meeting Pauline again, they knew no one from their father’s side of family.

The women’s s grandfather is Joseph Mullings who owned the well-known Demontevin Lodge Hotel in Port Antonio. Now, they have rediscovered this history and have found so many relatives together that they are planning a family reunion for August 2007. “Along with the reunion we will be having the 50th memorial service of death of our father,” says Mullings.

The counsellor mentions that their two mothers “are very good friends now who shop for each other and spend time together. It is amazing what God has done.”

Dr. Mullings adds, “I have found another mother in their mother. They also see my other sister Ann-Marie Findlay as their sister.”

Monday, Feb. 26, 2007

Older and wiser, couple reunited after nearly 10 years apart

When Frederick Thrower saw Charlonda Mathis at a San Antonio military-base hangout, he decided he needed a plan to get her to notice him.

He’d certainly noticed her: “I remember she had on a white dress, and her hair was cut in a short bob,” says Frederick, now 37, of that night in 1992. “I started acting a little goofy to break the ice. She wasn’t too into me.”

That’s because she translated “goofy” into “tipsy.”

“Military men could drink a lot, so I thought, ‘He’s drunk,’ ” says Charlonda, now 35 and a transplant social worker at Medical City Dallas Hospital and a part-time Mary Kay consultant.

Fortunately for him, the two continued running into each other during the following weeks.

“One night, we were all playing cards, and here he comes again,” she says. “All of the sudden, I thought, ‘You know what? He’s kind of handsome.’ ”

By that time, she’d learned that he was divorced and had two young sons. And the goofiness? “That’s just his personality. Fun, exciting, silly.”

The two began dating, and soon things got serious. Fast-forward to 1995, when everything was still going smoothly. In Charlonda’s mind, anyway.

But Frederick had an announcement: He was going back to his ex-wife.

“I had two sons at that time,” recalls Frederick, who works as a logistics specialist with Total Transportation. “As a father, there was a point when I made a decision that I needed to be there for them.”

“So he basically wanted to be a better man,” Charlonda adds. “He said, ‘I have to go back.’ At that time, he also found religion, but he broke my heart in the process.”

It took her a long time to recover. Besides work and graduate school, “I did not go out of the house for nine months,” she says. “I wouldn’t date; I couldn’t look at another man. I was so devastated.”

Frederick stayed with his wife for nine years and fathered two more sons. But, in the end, their problems outweighed the good he was trying to do by staying, he says, pointing to verbal abuse as one of their issues.

“We decided we need to do something; the kids don’t need to see all of this,” he says. “It was better for me to go.”

Over the years, Frederick had often thought of Charlonda, “but it was in the sense of, ‘I had a good girl, and it’s over,’ ” he recalls. He’d heard that she was in a relationship and had a son, but he still felt the need to apologize for abruptly ending their romance.

In 2003, he gave her a call.

“I also let her know that the love she gave me made me a better person,” he says. “I said, ‘You made me feel like a stronger man, better, like I could do anything. You always had my back and were always there for me.’ I just appreciated the way she made me feel.”

“I wasn’t hearing it,” Charlonda says. “It was kind of, ‘Oh, OK, yeah. Whatever.’ ”

In 2005, he called again, this time to wish her a happy birthday. At that point, Charlonda had grown to view Frederick’s breakup from a parental perspective.

“His sons were in another state, and he’d told me, ‘I miss my sons,’ ” she says. “I didn’t know what a parent went through at that time. In 2005, I told him I didn’t blame him.”

Then Frederick told her that, by the way, he was divorcing his wife again. “I had to get off the phone,” Charlonda says. “I felt this flood of emotions I didn’t know I had.”

That call led to many e-mails, which led to a decision to meet.

Before the reunion, “he sent me a picture and he said, ‘I’ve gained weight,’ ” Charlonda recalls.

“I said, ‘I’ve gained weight. Who hasn’t? None of us look like we did in high school.’ ”

Frederick, who was living in Dallas, flew to San Antonio. When they met at the airport, “my heart was beating so fast and he was so nervous,” she says. “I felt bad for him.”

Still, “it was like everything I thought it would be,” he says. “She was looking beautiful, I’m nervous, but I’m wondering, ‘Could this actually be real? Is this real?’ ”

It was so real that they began dating immediately. Not that they didn’t have a few issues; Charlonda, for one, didn’t want history to repeat itself.

“I think I did a lot of testing of him,” she says.

“I’d make little comments: ‘If you don’t like the way I wear my hair, are you going to leave me?’ I was distrusting in the beginning. Because of the bad relationship I was in [with her son’s father], I’d lost a lot of trust, period.”

After they ironed out their doubts, it was time to discuss the wedding.

“We’d waited this long, so there was no ‘Let’s see if this will work out,’ ” Charlonda says. “We’re soul mates.”

They planned a big ceremony in San Antonio on March 4, 2006, but because Frederick’s father, a minister, couldn’t be there that day, he married them in a separate ceremony on Jan. 13 of that year.

“I tell her, ‘I love you so much I married you twice already,’ ” Frederick says, adding that his wife “encourages me to be a team. I can’t imagine not having her.”

Now living in Dallas, the couple is raising Charlonda’s 8-year-old son, and they see Frederick’s boys, ages 18, 14, 10 and 7, as often as they can.

The kids soon will have another sibling; Charlonda recently learned that she’s pregnant.

“We’d like a girl,” she says with a laugh, “but as long as the baby is healthy and beautiful, that’s all we care about.”

Looking back on their nine-year breakup, “I’ve thought, ‘Oh, we lost so much time,’ ” Charlonda says.

“But we’ve both matured. Now, we know how to appreciate each another. Time and experience have taught us that.”

Monday, Jan. 29, 2007

Family Reunited at Cinderella’s Castle

Angie and Brian Davis were high school sweethearts, but fate tore them apart.

“He married someone else. I did. He had two other children. I got divorced. He ended up getting divorced,” Angie said. “And we found each other again. And we’ve been together ever since.”

Angie said that the two were soul mates with a vow to always stay together. But recently, Brian, a first sergeant in the National Guard, was called to duty.

Angie then wrote an essay to enter a “Good Morning America” contest to find a deserving family to be the first to spend the night in Cinderella’s castle at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The Davis family was chosen.

“My family so deserves this trip. This year has been really hard on us and next year will be even harder,” she wrote to “GMA.” “Got out of high school and moved in together and had Dallas.”

“My husband left June 6, 2006, for training to go to Iraq at Fort Sill, Okla.,” Angie wrote. “He left for Iraq on Sept. 18, 2006, and won’t be home until around September 2007.”

“I was just incredibly sad, and I didn’t want him to leave,” she said. “And I was mainly scared because we’re so close and we do everything together. And I know how much I needed him.”

Davis described her three children: an 11-, 10- and 8-year-old in the essay.

“Me and my sister and Dallas, we think about him every day,” said Kolton Davis, 8. “We hope he comes back alive.”

In the essay, Angie also wrote how precious her husband was to her.

“You have a hole there and any function that you do together as a family, you always have that hole there. And it’s Dad, and he’s missing,” she said.

The couple talks a couple of times a week, but it just isn’t the same.

“We were talking about him coming home and he says, ‘I can’t wait to actually see you talk to me,'” she said, laughing. “I said, ‘That will be too weird. We’re gonna have to talk on our cell phones on the couch to each other.'”

“He is our biggest hero and we are so proud of him,” she wrote in the letter. “Living without him during this time has taught us this but has also taught us how much we need him.”

Four months ago, they said goodbye and on Wednesday, they said hello again.

“We have never been able to go on a real family vacation before and hopefully you can help make this dream of ours come true,” she wrote. “Thank you, Angie Davis.”

Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007

Father and daughter reunite in modern miracle

Ricky Rawlins has been blessed.

“It seems like since I’ve been going back to church, things have been falling into place in my life,” he said.

Rawlins’ faith was bolstered by what he and wife of ten years, Gail Rawlins, both of Manning, call a modern miracle. In 2006, Rawlins was able to meet his long lost daughter Danielle for the first time since she was a one-year-old.

The story begins years ago when Rawlins was married to his first wife. One day he returned home from work to find both his wife and daughter Danielle, just an infant, gone.

“My first wife left me,” said Rawlins. “She left while I was at work. I came home and the baby was gone; she took the baby to Pennsylvania.”

Rawlins tried throughout the years to maintain contact with Danielle, trying to track her down through letters.

“I wrote letters, but they always came back ‘Return to Sender,’” he said. “The only picture she (his ex-wife) sent me was when she (Danielle) was one year old. That’s the last one I had seen of her.”

Rawlins’ ex-wife took Danielle to Washington, Pennsylvania before going on to live outside of Atlanta. She left Danielle to be raised by her grandmother, who for many years didn’t even know that Rawlins, Danielle’s father, existed.

“It was a messy deal,” said Rawlins. “I couldn’t find her. Danielle’s grandmother who raised her got all a one-sided story, nobody wanted to hear my half.”

Years passed and Danielle grew up in Pennsylvania. She knew some details about her father, like his full name and date of birth, but she had no idea where he lived or how to get in contact with him.

So she started a letter writing campaign, using the Internet and phone books and registries to track down as many people named Richard Rawlins as she could. She sent them letters asking them to get in contact with her if they knew about her dad.

Flash forward to a scene years later, after Rawlins and Gail were married.

“I was in the shower, and when I came out I saw Ricky was on the couch crying,” said Gail Rawlins, who still gets choked up when she describes the scene. “He was holding a letter and I knew it was from Danielle.”

“I was totally shocked. I was scared to even open it,” said Rawlins. “I kind of figured it was her when I saw ‘Danielle Slesh’ on the letter. I had a feeling she got married and it was her new name. Five minutes later I picked up the phone and called her.”

Tears were shed and greetings extended. Danielle came to Manning for a short visit two weeks before Halloween last year and father and daughter were reunited.

Rawlins has two sons and a daughter besides Danielle, and he always told them through the years, “You have a sister.”

“He was always talking about her,” said Gail Rawlins. “At Christmas time he would always get depressed.”

But this past Christmas was a little different. Rawlins and his sister went to Pennsylvania for three days to visit with Danielle and her family over the holidays.

Danielle is a nurse and is married to husband Corey Slesh, who works for Lens Crafters. The couple has a son, Kyle, and a daughter, Lucy, both of whom Rawlins got to meet for the first time.

Danielle presented her father with the best Christmas present he’s ever received, a photo album of Danielle with pictures from major events in her life throughout the years. He can see pictures of her graduations, her wedding and other moments he missed in her life.

The wounds from the past are healing and both Rawlins and Danielle are looking forward to the future. Rawlins has been accepted by Danielle’s grandmother and he says they’re good friends.

“When she gets some vacation time this year, Danielle’s planning on coming here for a week,” said Rawlins. “She says she loves it down here.

“And I’ll go to Pennsylvania if I have to,” he said. “We want to make up for the time we missed. She’ll come here once a year, I’ll go there once a year.”

Gail Rawlins believes that the story is testimony that miracles happen.

“I just think it’s a feel good story that says prayers can be answered,” she said. “God works in mysterious ways.”

“I definitely think it’s a miracle,” said Rawlins. “That’s what I would call it. I never dreamt that I would see her again.”

Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007

Homeless hero returns to see little girl in North Las Vegas

A homeless man who was hailed as a hero for helping lift a car off a 9-year-old girl in November has been reunited with the girl in southern Nevada.

“There he is!” said 9-year-old Robyn Rubio, pointing at the visitor with the black eye patch and trying to sit up before uttering a long moan that filled the room and startled a neighbor in the courtyard of her apartment complex.

“I am so glad you’re alive,” said Stanford Washburn, 48. “I came back from New Mexico on the bus yesterday to see with my own eyes that you are OK. Do you understand that you have a whole life ahead of you? I know you will walk again.”

The last time Washburn saw the girl, she was pinned beneath more than two tons of metal, after she darted into the road and was hit by the car. Washburn and at least three other homeless men lifted the Cadillac off her. The driver, a 66-year-old woman, has not been cited.

Since the Nov. 25 mishap, Rubio spent more than a month at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. She was sent home last week, and continues to recuperate from a crushed pelvis, two broken arms and other broken bones.

“She will walk again,” her mother, Tina Rubio, vowed. “She’s doing great now. She can pull herself in and out of the wheelchair by herself.”

Washburn spent the holidays home at the Navajo reservation at Shiprock, N.M., thanks to a donation from an anonymous benefactor who read of the rescue and sent travel money for him to North Las Vegas police.

A wheelchair sat Monday behind the tattered couch in the living room where Rubio sleeps. She wore a metal brace around her abdomen and nodded at Washburn’s words.

“You are so precious,” he said. “You will be able to help other people someday. You must always remember to be careful. I’m not sure when I will see you again. I just wanted to see for myself that you are OK.”

Washburn, a self-described drunk, said he has stayed away from the bottle since going home in December. He lived with his daughters and helped care for a 2-year-old grandson who he said he doesn’t want to embarrass.

“But I don’t know if I can stop from drinking,” he said.

Washburn said he planned to stay at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission and do odd jobs to raise money to buy a bus ticket back to Shiprock. He said he was sure better days were head for him and Robyn Rubio.

“We met for a reason,” he told her. “Maybe we are saving each other’s lives.”

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007

Reunited with love

Reunions are always sweet, and the longer the separation, the sweeter the reunion. Douglas and Michele Krueger of Port Washington were separated from their dog Max for six months; they had pretty much given up hope of ever having a sweet reunion with their dog.

Max was a two-a-half year-old golden retriever and Border collie mix when he went missing last May. By all accounts he was an obsequious and skittish dog.

“He’s a very docile dog,” said Michele Krueger. “He never does anything wrong. He’s very shy and never needed to be potty trained. He’s just always at your side.”

“He’s a friendly dog,” said Douglas. “We let him out unattended and he just stays in the yard.”

Last May Max didn’t stay in his yard. That might have been because he wasn’t in his yard at all. Instead, Max was being doggy-sat by Michele’s sister in West Bend.

“They were leaving to go to the store and (Max) snuck out the door and jumped in (my sister’s) van,” said Michele. “They (tried to) pull him into the house and he took off. He ran a circle around the house and saw I wasn’t there and then he was just gone.”

Run away? Not Max!

Michele’s sister was also watching the Krueger’s other dog, a Dalmatian named Jasmine.

“I was surprised he ran away,” said Michele. “When (my sister) said a dog ran away, I was sure it must be Jasmine.”

Michele called Douglas at work and he left immediately to search for Max. They were assisted by Douglas’ mother in one car, Michele’s sister and her children in another, and Michele in her truck. Despite all of the extra eyes, Max could not be located.

“When (Max) left there was a five-day rain streak,” said Douglas. “I was obviously that much more worried about him.”

Douglas continued the search, putting some 6,000 miles on his new truck in a vain attempt to find Max.

“After two months we started to slow down,” he said. “We had (put out) 2,000 flyers and took out ads in newspapers. We stopped the flyers.”

There were sightings of Max, but by the time the Krueger’s could drive to Washington County the dog was long gone.

Doggy Mug Shots

Shortly after Max ran away, the Krueger’s filed a Lost Report with the Washington County Humane Society. The reports include a picture of the animal in question and are inserted into a binder.

The Krueger’s foresight came in handy when a dog was recovered from a trap in Hartford on Nov. 21.

“When stray dogs or cats come into the shelter we look through the binders,” said Stacey Hart, an animal caregiver for the Washington County Humane Society. “When you go through the book you remember pictures of some of the animals. I was almost positive it was the dog.”

“(The dog) was a little shy,” said Kathie Jaster, a humane officer at the Humane Society. “Sometimes the signals dogs give off when they are shy are a little scary. When Stacey got the picture and brought it back (I thought), ‘I’ll be darned if it wasn’t the same dog.’”

Within a half an hour Douglas arrived at the Humane Society, unsure about what to expect.

“I thought it was going to be a wild goose chase because people had reported seeing him before,” he said. “I went up to the kennel and there was a fraction of second (of doubt in my mind) because he looked scruffy from being outside. But the second I called his name he came right to me, no collar, nothing. The lady said he was a completely different animal from the (dog) they brought in.”

Douglas said that Max was “so happy,” on the ride home. He also didn’t tell his wife who was with him in the truck.

“She didn’t know I had the dog in my truck,” he said. “I let the dog out and she just cried in the driveway.”

These days the Kruegers say Max is happy and healthy – and they are happy to have him back in their pack. Only two weeks ago Max celebrated his third birthday.

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006

Reunited, and it feels so right

I spent the day of my 50th Overbrook High School reunion studying myself in the mirror, changing from one outfit to the next and, rearranging the hair I’d spent a fortune to have done.

Two hours before it was time to leave for the reunion in Philadelphia, I rushed into the shower to wash my hair and start all over again.

Reunions do weird things to people.

As it turned out, I had a wonderful time. A spectacular time.

I exhaled after the first 30 seconds at the Bala Golf Club, a place I’d never once entered before, and let the feelings come. They did.

Early in the evening, I hugged brilliant Mark, my biology lab partner and the guy who got me through the course, trying to tell him all these years later how grateful I was to him.

I wept when I saw Sharon, the elementary school pal with whom I’d traveled through junior high, then high school. I wept because she’d survived a heart attack years before, and I’d never reconnected with her. Guilt makes me cry.

On a night that felt real and surreal, I looked back to 1956 when we believed the world was a good place and we would be young and healthy forever. How wrong we were.

Fifty years later, so many faces were missing from the party, so many names were tolled in a suddenly silent room as we paused to remember those classmates, forever young to us, who didn’t make this milestone.

Not beautiful Carol, the foxiest girl in class, a casualty of breast cancer. Not perky Debbie, dead of the same disease in her late 30s. Not Anthony and Bob and all those others we thought were invincible at 17.

Those moments passed, and the music played as 60-somethings danced the jitterbug and attempted the twist. In between, there were conversations that ranged from the mundane to the searching.

Three of our classmates had lost children recently. Unfathomable, that loss.

Several had accomplished significant things in science and medicine and business. We were, in our late 60s, actors and writers and dentists and clerks and secretaries, and many of us, retired.

That R word still gives me pause, and so far does not apply to me. But there it was, front and center, among the kids who once cheered for the same basketball team and dreamed of becoming famous like Wilt Chamberlain, the guy we called Dippy, and the most celebrated upperclassman at Overbrook when we entered in 1952.

And now Dippy, too, was gone.

We remembered, of course, the sweet simplicity of the ’50s. But we also recognized that the decade was a rigid, uptight blip on America’s time line, when our twin gods were caution and conformity, and a demagogue named Joe McCarthy polluted the nation’s landscape with his toxic accusations.

They had called us the Silent Generation. We were not only silent, we were tense and troubled and afraid.

But oh, the quaintness of life back then for nice girls like me. Success was so clearly defined: You caught a good man, moved to the split-level suburbs and lived happily ever after, just as in those Doris Day movies.

So we wore our pullover sweaters and straight skirts with kick pleats, forced our hair into a sweet style called a pageboy fluff, and never even thought of dropping out.

But our connection, our communion, our shared ideals were real, and were still felt 50 years later. Maybe that’s because high school is so pivotal a time that it lives in the marrow. Good, bad or indifferent, it demands attention, even decades later.

As the evening wore down, we hugged with a certain ferocity, made pledges to be in touch, and to use the wondrous Internet to stay close. It may even happen in a few instances.

But come what may, we still will have memories of this one magical night when we remembered the way we were – and celebrated being young together once.

Monday, Dec. 4, 2006

Reunited and it feels good

TWO Reading-born brothers spent a lazy afternoon at the pub – 47 years after they last saw one another.

When Derek Wheeler last saw sibling Clive, in 1959, the pair were not old enough to share a pint. Derek, who used to live in Tilehurst, lost contact with his brother after he (Derek) was adopted from a children’s home in Caversham.

Now, nearly 50 years on, the brothers have been reunited – thanks to an article in the Evening Post.
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After a relative read Derek’s plea to trace his siblings, the brothers made phone contact and arranged a reunion at the Hare and Hounds pub in Sonning Common.

Derek said: “It was a very nice occasion. It’s been many, many years since I last saw Clive.

“It took me one or two seconds to recognise him but when I did I knew it was definitely my brother.”

The reunited pair now plan another family event in Reading next year – by which time the brothers hope to have traced the whereabouts of their sister Maureen.

Friday, Dec. 1, 2006

Tears as hunter, wife reunited

Andreas Thirling will be forgiven if he sleeps through his 27th wedding anniversary today.

His wife Christine is just happy to have him back. [Only Love Is Real: A Story of Soulmates Reunited]

After four days lost in rugged bush the 50-year-old Northland man walked out on to State Highway 5, about 15km south of Turangi, just before 7pm on Monday.

“It’s just wonderful,” a relieved Mrs Thirling said. “When the phone rang I thought they were ringing to give me an update. We are so grateful to everyone who searched for him.”

Mr Thirling had been hunting in the Waipakihi Valley with two friends but failed to return from a solo hunt on Thursday.

Latching on to a stag, Mr Thirling said he became lost and the batteries on his GPS (global positioning system) died.

He walked through thick bush for four days, cutting his hands, arms and legs on bush lawyer weeds, falling and breaking his watch and losing his compass in the process.

Fear was the last thing on his mind.

“I kept thinking about my wife. I knew people would be looking for me,” he said.

His only food was a single muesli bar which he cut into thumbnail-sized pieces. He collected stream water in a 500ml bottle and ate fern leaves.

“I did think about eating bugs at one stage. One fern was like pepper on my throat,” he said.

“I only slept about four hours in five days. It was freezing cold.”

Volunteers from all over the Central North Island joined the search, using helicopters, dogs and kayaks; numbers swelled on Sunday to more than 40.

Mr Thirling’s signals went unnoticed: he let off a few gunshots on Friday morning, but that was before he had been reported missing. Torrential rain fell that day and a helicopter flying overhead raised his hopes.

“I thought they could see me, but they couldn’t.

“So I lit a fire and burnt my toothbrush. Plastic burns good,” he said.

On Monday morning he found a cone and note searchers had left on a track.

Making his way through Tree Trunk Gorge Rd Mr Thirling heard traffic from the Desert Rd and knew help was within reach. The first vehicle he saw, a truck, drove straight past him.

“I realised I had a gun in my hand so put it on my shoulder. I must have looked a sight.”

He waved the next car down and the driver, a man named Josh, gave him a banana and drove him to the Turangi police station.

The hunter attributes his survival to a black plastic bag, a knife and the muesli bar.

The good-news phone call that Mr Thirling had walked out of the bush came at around 7pm on Monday night, and Mrs Thirling arrived in Taupo early yesterday to reunion hugs and wet cheeks.

“The tears came automatically – he looked so scratched,” she said.

“When you go through the bush for days you don’t look very nice, and he was dehydrated. But otherwise he’s in good spirits. He just needs a good rest,” she said.

Hunting companion Wayne Smith said he was impressed with the search efforts and remained confident his mate would make it.

“I’m just surprised he didn’t eat worms. He ate a possum once. If it’s edible he’ll eat it.”

While his mate carried a GPS, people shouldn’t rely on electronic devices unless it was a personal locater beacon, Mr Smith said.

“Anything can go wrong, but with a beacon you will be found within two to four hours.”

Search and Rescue police Senior Constable Barry Shepherd said he was surprised the hunter had survived.

“You are always optimistic in the back of your mind but we had no clues in four days. We thought we were searching for a body or someone who was seriously injured or unresponsive,’ he said.

Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006

Missing girl reunited with father in Ohio

A 7-year-old Washington state girl who disappeared six months ago has been reunited with her father, police said.

Charles Ard, of Clark County, Wash., picked up his daughter, Brittany Ard, on Friday.

Police said the girl’s mother interfered with custody arrangements and moved the girl to the Cincinnati area. Regina Tiel and her husband, Kary Tiel, have been charged with felony interference in custody.

The Tiels used a false name to enroll the girl last month at the Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in Symmes Township, authorities said.

Kathy Gims, the child’s first-grade teacher, said she became suspicious for several reasons, including that the girl’s hair looked dyed. An admissions counselor at the school also had difficulty tracking down the girl’s records, including a permanent address.

Gims and the counselor went to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Web site, where they found a photo of the girl.

The center contacted Vancouver, Wash., detectives, and police arrested the Tiels on Thursday.

Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006

U.S. man reunited with daughter on German TV show

A U.S. man who fathered a daughter in Germany 22 years ago was reunited with her on German television, according to a media report. [Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know]

Glenn Godau was a U.S. Army warrant officer when Jennifer S’rgel, 22, was born near Ansbach, West Germany, before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

He was contacted in August by a German TV-production company to appear on “All You Need is Love” — a show that brings together long-lost family members, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported.

A friend contacted the show after hearing S’rgel talk about wanting to meet her biological father. The father-daughter segment was filmed in mid-October in Cologne, Germany.

“They successfully got Jennifer there without her figuring out it was going to be her being surprised. It was pretty emotional,” Godau told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, let’s put it that way.”

After the show, Godau and his daughter spent 12 days together at her home in Bavaria. Godau learned S’rgel, a pediatric nurse, is engaged and gave birth to a daughter, Cecile, 12 weeks ago.

“Twelve days was not enough time. I jammed a lot of stuff into 12 days, I can say that,” Godau said. “It was the best time of my life.”

After Godau’s visit, he and his daughter are keeping in touch through phone calls, e-mail and text messages.

Godau learned that part of the reason he and S’rgel had trouble connecting was because her biological mother changed the last name on her birth certificate. [Daughters and Mothers: Making It Work]

Godau’s brother attempted to find S’rgel during business trips to Germany. Family members also tried to find her online for years.

Friday, Nov. 3, 2006

Girls Adopted from Russia, Reunited with Sisters

A long awaited reunion brought together four little girls, sisters separated by an ocean.The girls were Russian orphans who now share a Utah family.

The four girls were taken from their biological parents in Russia because of abuse. Unfortunately, the future for most orphans there is bleak. They are sent out on their own when they reach 17. The adoptive family says most of the boys become criminals and two-thirds of the girls become prostitutes. It’s those statistics that compelled Simmons family of Kamas to adopt five children from Russia.

Wearing traditional Russian costumes, little Sarah, Celeste and Denney waited anxiously for their sisters, coming to Utah for the first time.

Shelley: “What are you going to do with those flowers?”

Sarah: “Give them to my sisters.”

Six-year old Sarah, and four-year old Celeste are biological sisters and were adopted along with three-year old Denney a year and half ago. While the Simmons were in Russia finalizing their adoption, they discovered the girls had two other sisters who were also in state custody.

The three children adjusted well to their new surroundings and to having four new brothers, but the thought of those two girls still in Russia haunted Amy and John.

Amy Simmons: “Is this something we can do, something we can do to help out, because the odds of their survival is very bleak in Russia for them. It seems like they’ve been meant to be with our family for a long time; it’s finally happening.”

So with arms full of flowers and love they greeted the two older girls, now reunited with their little sisters and a new family.

The Simmons say though their house was already full, it wasn’t complete until now.

Amy Simmons: “It’s funny because we’ll call the kids to dinner, or call for bed and we’ll say who’s missing? Svieta and Natasha they are still in Russia. So no not anymore not anymore.”

John Simmons, Father: “It’ll be tough. The culture shock has already set in a little bit for them, it’s a lot different that what they are used to.”

But the girls appear to be happy to be part of a new family starting a new life in Utah.

Inside Good News Blog