Thursday, Jul. 12, 2007
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
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.
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.”
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
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
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.
“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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Shopping for tank tops. Watching DVDs on the couch. Cooking dinner. Giggling late at night.
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
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
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
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
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
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.’
Monday, Feb. 26, 2007
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.”