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Posted October 19th, 2012
It’s always a pleasure to witness the reunions of veterans. Many forge relationships during their service, yet they lose contact for decades after returning home to their families.
For Vietnam veterans Glenn Steinberg and Wladislaw Zivkovich, they managed to keep in contact for 40 years after leaving the service, but they never had an in-person visit. Occasional phone calls were the norm, as well as yearly holiday cards. But, a face-to-face reunion was long overdue and both men were ready to meet.
From 1969 to 1971, Glenn and Wladislaw served in the Army for an 18-month period. In 1974, they parted and went separate ways. They kept in contact via phone but never met face to face.
Forty years later, at the Lake of the Ozarks, the veterans gathered to meet in person. Steinberg occasionally rides his Harley Davidson and vacations for the summer, but this time he rode all the way to Washington to visit his war buddy and his wife.
Steinberg calls Wladislaw, “Z” which could very well be a shortened, easy-to-pronounce version of his last name, Zivkovich. Steinberg rode to a designated point where he would meet Z and his wife Kay. The two old war buddies met at Casablanca Bar on Bagnell Dam, only a few miles from Z’s home.
The buddies reunited and reminisced about their time in the service. Steinberg enjoyed his stay in the Ozarks and was glad to meet so many friendly people and receive such a warm welcome.
The friends parted ways but promised to see each other again. Zivkovich and his wife will travel to Seattle to stay with the Steinberg’s the next time around.
Posted October 17th, 2012
All four Highers brothers assembled together for the first time since 1987. Thomas, Raymond, Michael, and Scotty reunited after 25 years and didn’t miss a beat.
Their reunion wasn’t a typical gathering or a story of failed searches for long lost siblings. For these brothers, prison came between their relationships and caused them to separate.
Thomas and Raymond Highers were sent to prison after being convicted of murdering Robert Karey, a drug dealer in Detroit. Wayne County Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon, at a recent hearing, set bond requirements, and released the two brothers back into civilization.
The brothers never admitted to the killing and fought for their innocence every step of the way. But it would be 25 years until they would see the world around them, how it had changed and how their family had grown. They would be introduced to cell phones, iPads, Facebook and the internet, and discover some unsettling world news and recent events. But, what was most disconcerting of all was the reality that their parents had passed while they were serving time.
Michael was emotional as the reality of his brothers coming home hit him fully. He was so happy to be reunited.
“There was a lot of love floating around,” he said.
The brothers left their jail cells and were welcomed by family and friends with open arms.
“The first night was awesome,” Michael said. “They ended up getting steak dinners from Logan’s Steakhouse that a cousin brought over, and chowed down on those.”
Thomas and Raymond, though happy to be free, have a long road ahead to get acclimated into society. They are living with relatives and must find work to make ends meet. Due to their previous drug abuse, they were mandated to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings immediately.
Though the judge released the brothers, it is only temporary until the court settles on a verdict. If they are found guilty, they may serve time in prison for the rest of their lives.
Despite their current freedom, a murder charge is still pending against both brothers and they face the possibility that they could be recommitted to a lifetime in prison if found guilty. Judge Talon received new testimonies which resulted in the release of the brothers. He said the brothers would have been acquitted if this new evidence was available during the initial trial proceedings.
Though Judge Talon stands behind this new evidence, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office refuses to drop the charges and will appeal Judge Talon’s ruling.
“The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office will appeal the grant of a new trial.” Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the office, said. “It will be determined at a later time whether there will be an appeal of the bond decision.”
Fortunately, all the brothers are thinking about now is their reunion and the good times ahead. Michael was somewhat hesitant about the awkwardness of their relationship after so much time had lapsed, but once they met, it was as if they never separated.
“But when we got together, it was just like where we had left off,” he said. “It was amazing.”<Read More>
Posted October 16th, 2012
Five sisters, separated as children, met once again after 60 years of separation. This was the first time the sisters were in the same room since 1950.
LaVina Samuels, 71, Sandy Laxton, 70, Marti Riffle, 69, Merle Wampler, 68, and Lynn Norzinskay, 65, gathered together to celebrate the bond of sisterhood. They reunited and shared lifetime memories, photos, triumphs and hardships, and wished they had found each other sooner. Thankfully, some of the sisters were in contact throughout the years, but they were never able to gather all five together at the same time and place.
Born in Chicago in 1941, LaVina had no idea how disjointed her life would become. Her parents, Theodore and Doris (Newman) Stevens, moved to the South Bend area and had four more girls. The family grew to include 10 total children, six daughters, and three sons, one who passed away as an infant. Sadly, four of the remaining nine children lost their lives along with their mother in a Chicago fire in 1964.
In 1950, the five sisters were taken from their home by the welfare department for unknown reasons and raised under foster care. LaVina was 9 years old at the time and confused at why the sisters were separated and sent to live with different foster families.
The sisters eventually lost touch and some had to deal with abusive situations. At 11 years old, thankfully, Marti was adopted into a loving family. However, Lynn lived her teenage years at the Family & Children’s Center in Mishawaka.
“I was just passed around to various families and didn’t belong anywhere. I was resentful,” Lynn said.
LaVina returned to live with her parents as a teenager and she never found out where her sisters lived since her parents never spoke of them.
In 1973, when Lynn was of age, she took initiative to reunite the sisters.
“When I was 25 years old, I wrote letters to the welfare department insisting they let me know where my family was,” she said.
Welfare could not give Lynn exact details, but they provided her with the name and home address for her maternal grandmother. Lynn paid her a visit and was greeted by her father and sister LaVina as well.
“I was aware I had siblings (prior to that), but it was all vague,” Lynn said.
“If Lynn wasn’t persistent, this would not have happened,” Merle said.
Lynn stayed with LaVina and their father and moved with them to Logansport. The sisters’ father passed in the mid 1980s.
Anne, Sandy’s daughter, was the catalyst for the sisters’ reunion. She found three of her aunts on Facebook, sent them messages, and the rest is history. The messages led to phone calls and plans for a reunion in the South Bend area.
“The moment of reunion itself on Sunday was exciting,” the sisters said.
“We were all sharing pictures and remembering things,” Sandy said.
“I saw pictures I didn’t know existed,” Marti said.
The sisters connected and shared a lifetime of stories. They discovered similarities in their hobbies and lifestyles such as a love for reading, lots of humor and an adaptation of Christianity.
“We pretty much have the same personality,” Marti said.
Though separated more than six decades ago, the sisters lived rich, full lives. They grew to have 13 children, 34 grandchildren, and 29 great grandchildren of their own.
The sisters plan to visit regularly and keep their relationship going strong. They hope other families will be vigilant about reuniting with lost loved ones and track down their siblings regardless of the family history.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out,” Sandy said. “It means so much.”<Read More>
Posted October 15th, 2012
Ellison Withe recently reunited with a long lost relative. This reunion was special because Withe has a historical past. His great uncle, Alexander Thompson, died with the Titanic when it sunk into the ocean 100 years ago.
Withe utilized the internet to help him search for Ian Booth, great-grandson of the late Alexander Thompson. Booth accepted the invitation to reunite with Withe and travelled with his 7-year-old daughter Lucy to Withe’s hometown of Workingham. The relatives met at a Titanic memorial event in Southampton.
Thompson was a 36-year-old stone mason who sought a fresh start in America. He left behind a wife and three children, and boarded the Titanic, expecting to reunite with them later once he became established. Thompson was originally scheduled to travel to America on a different ship three months prior to his Titanic voyage, but a coal strike resulted in the trip cancellation.
The last communication Thompson had with his family was a postcard sent from Ireland on April, 11, 1912 that read, “It is very comfortable here and steady as a rock, but the feather beds are a bit hard.”
Thompson drowned with the Titanic and nobody knows if his body was recovered since there are no records stating it was identified.
Booth felt privileged to meet a member of his family and discover the rich family heritage even through the tragedy.
“There was a mixture of emotions. I was excited and privileged, not only to meet a relative who we didn’t know existed, but privileged out of a mark of respect,” he said.
“There was an element of apprehension,” Withe said. “It is nice to know we are going to share this event together. Ian and Lucy have more of a right to attend this event than I do as Alexander Thompson is my great-grandfather’s brother.
Withe is happy that the event brought family together who never connected until now.
“I’m so delighted Lucy has come because it is something she will never forget and it is a once in a lifetime event,” he added. “We are thinking about the younger generation and keeping this interest ongoing.
Withe mentioned how the Titanic films glorify the actual event, but he is a representation of the real families who were left after the tragedy so many years later.
“Although it is a sad event, it has brought us together,” he said.<Read More>
Posted October 14th, 2012
Imagine you were given the name and location of your birth mother, but you were unable to see her because she was not ready to meet you. This harrowing scenario was a reality for 67-year-old Roger Frederick who delayed meeting his mother for 23 years—even though he knew exactly where she was.
Roger was born in 1945 in Oklahoma and was adopted immediately after birth. He grew up to become a Marine in Vietnam and married his wife, Margy. He worked in the floor covering industry for 30 years at which time the couple started their own business in Texas, their current residence.
In 1989, Roger decided to look for his birth parents. He and his wife tried to gather information from a judge in El Reno since the case was officially open; however, the judge was not forthcoming with the information.
“She made me promise not to interrupt my mother’s life,” Roger said. “I asked the judge for my real birth certificate and got it that afternoon.”
Roger barely escaped the courtroom with the birth certificate. Margy noticed the court clerk was hesitant about fulfilling their request.
“I got emotional and told him how important it was to us,” she said.
The birth certificate revealed Roger’s mother’s maiden name. They drove to Oklahoma and spoke to a few people after meeting with the deacon at the First Baptist Church. They discovered Roger’s mother, Luella Douglas, lived only 20 miles from where they were situated.
Though Roger was physically closer to his mother than he had been since he was born, he honored the judge’s wishes and decided to wait patiently before contacting her.
“I had a plan,” Roger said. “Identify her and then think about it.”
As they drove away, Roger was afraid he would run into a member of his family.
“I was really nervous,” Roger said. “Any one of the men standing around whittling and telling stories could have been my father.”
Roger decided to try one last thing before giving up on his heartfelt journey. He found a nearby pay phone and called his mother’s house phone.
“My idea was to call and ask if the date Jan. 12, 1945 meant anything to her and then see where the conversation went,” Roger said. “But nobody was home.”
A few days passed and the judge gave him the name of a woman from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services who agreed to become the intermediary. The woman made several calls to Rogers’ mother and brought back sobering news. Luella admitted she birthed Roger but she was not yet prepared to meet or contact him.
Roger became a patient man for the next two decades—he had no choice. Eighteen years after hearing about his mother’s refusal to see him, Margy’s mother noticed an obituary mentioning Roger’s father’s name. They discovered he had died and as a result Roger was compelled to make another visit to his mother’s location to attend the funeral.
Though Roger promised the judge in 1989 that he would not contact his mother, he was too compelled not to give it a try.
“There was a tremendous snow and ice storm that day, and it was very cold,” he said. “I drove up in my bright red Jeep and hid it in an alley behind the funeral home.”
Roger, being discreet, posed as a gravesite photographer and set his camera a distance away from the funeral gathering.
“It was paramount in my mind that I get a photo of my mother to compare with myself,” he said.
Roger was also intent on meeting his long lost sister, Kay Douglas, whom he discovered after reading his father’s obituary.
Kay was raised by her birth mother and father and married Earl Hargis, a pastor. They moved around for a while and settled in Bigfork. Kay and her husband moved her parents to Bigfork because they needed assisted living conditions. Luella had dementia and never told Kay she had a long lost brother.
“Then one day I got an e-mail from Roger’s niece with some jaw-dropping news,” Kay said.
The email originated from Roger’s niece who was an avid genealogist researcher. She decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I remember her telling me about Roger, ‘He’s my favorite uncle, a great guy, you’d be so blessed to have him in your life,’” Kay said.
Roger and Kay connected by phone and talked via email. They discovered they are both Christians and share some similarities such as health issues and they both have two boys of their own. The family finally met for a face-to-face reunion. Roger and Margy prepared to meet both Luella and Kay, a moment Roger had been anticipating for more than two decades.
“It’s been a real gift from God,” Kay said. “We all share the Lord. I think he directed us to all come together.”
“We fit totally together,” Roger said. “My wife and Kay also have a lot in common. They’re both soft and warm people. And Earl is a really great guy.”
More family reunions are in the works as everyone is eager to put the past behind them and create new memories for the future.<Read More>
Posted October 13th, 2012
For brothers Kenneth Corcoran and Edward Muir, reaching 80 years old has been quite an accomplishment. Both men achieved their career goals, had loving families and lived full, whole lives. But, one thing was missing—the brothers were separated as children and hadn’t seen each other in more than 80 years.
A reunion was in the making for more than eight decades and the brothers were thrilled to meet even if it was in the latter part of their lives. They reunited recently in Casselton, North Dakota, thanks to some family detective work and a dose of determination.
Kenneth waited in anticipation for his brother to arrive at the airport. One can only wonder what he must have been thinking. Would they get along? What does he look like? He hadn’t seen his sibling since he was a toddler so he most likely thought he would not be able to recognize him even if he tried.
His thoughts came to a screeching halt. When Kenneth laid eyes on his brother, he knew exactly who he was.
“Hell, I recognized him as soon as he came off. Well, 80 years. I looked and said, there he is,” Kenneth said.
Eighty years in the making. The brothers had a lot of catching up to do and they were prepared to reminisce for hours.
The siblings’ mother died when they were young children and unfortunately their father was unable to care for them. The brothers were two of five children born to the same parents, but the unsightly circumstances left them separated and adopted to different families. The adoptive families scattered across the United States and the siblings’ names were changed.
As they grew, the siblings were unable to get in touch with one another. A few years ago, Pam, Kenneth’s daughter, took to the internet to begin her search for her father’s long lost brother. Her search returned no results until her son Alex used his internet savvy to close the deal.
“He said mom you need a break, just go away, let me play with this and within 15 minutes he’s yelling ‘Mom get in here, I think I found him,’ and he did,” Pam said.
The brothers met at the airport and their reunion was out of the ordinary. One would think they never separated. They both had a sense of humor and shared looks, mannerisms and even interests.
“Whirlwind plans were in motion and when the brothers finally met, it was almost like they’d never been apart,” Pam said. “Those two old guys are totally twins. They’re identical. They look alike, they act alike, how they raised us. Everything is the same.”
After conversing for hours, the brothers were surprised to discover their many similarities. They both served in the military and share similar interests even down to their favorite song, Wabash Cannonball.
“It’s what my dad wants played at his funeral, yes,” Pam said.
Their conversations were easy and connected and after only a few days they were finishing each other’s sentences.
Though the brothers shared characteristics most brothers would, they differ on one important platform.
“Oh yes. He’s a democrat and I’m a republican,” Edward said.
Kenneth and Edward are grateful they had the opportunity to meet so late in life.
“I’m glad it all turned out the way it has, at least before we left this earth, that I got to meet you,” Edward said.
Pam stated, “My dad always wanted to know, and now he does.”
Kenneth and Edward look forward to their future and Kenneth has already made plans to visit Edward in Florida. Their extended family is also overjoyed and everyone is planning more trips and reunions.<Read More>
Posted October 12th, 2012
Veterans Richard Huntley, Peter Zoldos, and Alan Simons, reunited after serving in the Navy nearly five decades ago. The last time they saw each other was in training school on Mare Island in 1963. Though so many years separated them, their bond kept them close at heart and allowed them to pick up right where they left off.
Though the veterans enjoyed long careers that carried them across the globe, they still remember their relationship so many years later. They reminisced about the laughs and the times they enjoyed in the service.
“We had a great old time then,” Simons said. “We were young and crazy.”
Simons served in the navy for more than 21 years and retired to work in the private sector. After retirement, he started his search for his veteran friends. He felt it was important to reunite with them at this time in his life when his careers were behind him.
“You realize you have less tomorrows than you have yesterdays,” Simons said. “It’s brought a great deal of joy to me.”
Simons searched for Zoldos on the internet and found contact information on Santa Rosa High School website’s alumni page. The three veterans used to spend weekends at Zoldos’ home in Santa Rosa when they were stationed at Mare Island.
“On weekends we’d all go up to Peter’s house. His parents became the West coast mom and dad for a lot of us,” Huntley said. “They just took us in, even when he had the duty weekend.”
Zoldon said he was more concerned with reuniting with his Navy friends than going to his high school reunion. After parting ways, Zoldos served his country for 19 more years and later opened a Mercedes Benz repair shop.
“You scatter to the four winds with the Navy,” Zoldos said. “We haven’t seen each other in how many years? And it’s like it was a month ago.”
Zoldos realized how fast time catches up with you and how precious it really is. He tried to contact someone he knew from training school only to find out he had passed. The man’s wife communicated with Zoldos and told him her husband died suddenly from cancer.
“Time gets precious as you get older,” Zoldos said.
After discovering his friend’s death, Zoldos was even more vigilant about prioritizing his friendship with Simons and Huntley.
Huntley discovered Zoldos’ contact information on Facebook the same year Simons and Zoldos reunited. Though Zoldos didn’t even realize he had a Facebook profile, he saw Huntley’s message and the rest is history.
Huntley retired in 1965 due to medical reasons and started a clown company. Years later, he became an ordained chaplain and traveled around Europe and Turkey. It wasn’t until recently that Huntley returned to the U.S. to remain in Auburn indefinitely.
The three veterans traveled, served and lived all over the world and somehow all three ended up settling in Northern California only a short driving distance away.
“It’s just something special. You bond,” Zoldos said. “I don’t know the word I am looking for.”
“Camaraderie,” Huntley replied.
Zoldos agreed and said, “that’s it, camaraderie.”<Read More>
Posted October 11th, 2012
It’s not every day that long lost siblings find each other through the chapter of a book. But for siblings Emma Passmore and Shirley Cannon, not only did this chance occurrence happen, it changed their lives forever.
Dr. Robert Mann, a forensic anthropologist, wrote a book entitled, “Forensic Detective” which listed facts about the cases he solved throughout his career. One chapter offered biographical information such as Mann’s birth name, Robert Dean Churchwell, and his biological mother’s identity. This information led to the reunion of Mann and his two long lost siblings.
The three siblings were born of William and Alice Churchwell, residents of Mingo County, West Virginia. The seven-child family faced a difficult childhood with problems leading to their parent’s separation in 1951. The children were forced to separate. Alice moved to Florida with three of the children and filed for divorce. Robert was among the three and suffered through his mother putting him and his siblings up for adoption. The four remaining siblings spent the rest of their childhood with relatives in West Virginia.
Robert was three years old when he was adopted by the Mann family in 1952. Though he found a family that wanted him, his new parents divorced and he lived with his adoptive mother. Thankfully he grew close to her and his adoptive grandparents.
Passmore and Cameron were among the four siblings who remained in West Virginia. Though their parents were gone, their difficulties continued. They left home at young ages and quickly matured to deal with the conditions. The siblings lost contact over the years but as time passed they felt the separation had to come to an end.
Passmore and Cannon were contacted by Denise Churchwell, an unrelated woman, searching to discover her genealogical history. Churchwell fond the book chapter and shared the information with Emma via an online conversation. The missing details gave the sisters enough data to locate their long lost brother. It also provided the impetus to gather all seven siblings who now live in West Virginia and Kentucky, together for a long-awaited reunion.
The sisters contacted Robert and a reunion was in the works.
“It’s like something you’d see in a movie,” Cannon said. “I could hardly believe it at first. We didn’t know anything about him for all those years. On the day we got in touch with him (Mann), he was so happy to learn he had all these brothers and sisters. It made us all feel good.”
The siblings are planning to come together and reunite once Robert’s schedule permits him time. As the director of the Central Identification Laboratory’s forensic science academy, Robert must wait until his schedule allows him to take a long vacation.
“It’s been over 60 years since we’ve all been together,” Cannon said. “It’ll be nice to get everyone together again.”<Read More>
Posted October 10th, 2012
For two decades, Don Gibson and his son Craig launched a desperate search to find one another. Don parted from his wife and new son Craig to join the navy and circumstances kept him from reuniting. After nearly 21 years and many closed doors, Don found his long lost son and ex-wife and all three look forward to a bright future ahead—together as a family.
Don Gibson was a U.S. airman who met his wife Chrissie in the U.K., her hometown, 21 years ago. They married in 1989, and had a son, Craig. Because Don was in the U.S. Air Force, he had to move back to the states to complete his service. Chrissie was not willing to take their new son and leave her life in the U.K. since she had two sons from a previous marriage. She did not want to move away and leave them.
Unfortunately, once Don left to re-join the service, he lost contact with his wife and child. As Craig grew, he was determined to find his father. He knew he was in Texas, but when he started looking, his father had already left and moved to Oregon, making the search more difficult.
Don was also feverishly searching for his son. He hired a private detective and employed the services of online companies but he came up empty every time. Craig tried various social media sites for at least 10 years but nothing ever materialized.
All seemed lost until a chance happening connected father and son together again. Don found Craig’s half-brother on Facebook and through him was able to connect to his son. He sent Craig a message that read, “Do you know who I am? Would you like to know? Ask whatever you want. Also tell your mum I said hi. I think of you often. Hope you are all well. Hope to hear from you soon.”
Craig was just as happy to connect with his father as his father was to connect with him. Father and son used Skype to chat and a face-to-face reunion is scheduled for October. Don is moving to the UK to spend the rest of his life with his son and ex-wife. The family has also discussed the possibility of Chrisse and Don re-marrying.
A family torn apart is now back together again.
“I thank my lucky stars for modern technology because without that we wouldn’t be here,” Don said.<Read More>
Posted October 9th, 2012
Fifty-five years separated sisters Shirley Barrington and Carol Bland, but their recent reunion put an end to their disconnection. The last time they saw each other Bland was just 9 years old and Barrington was 21.
Bland, now 64, started searching for her long lost sister in 1974, the day her father passed away. As her father was about to take his last breath, he wished the sisters would reunite and connect. The sisters shared the same father, but had two different mothers.
“It was not only a miracle finding my sister, but it was fulfilling our dad’s dying wish, too,” Bland said.
Their father got his wish nearly 38 years after he died. The sisters reunited at the home of Bland’s daughter. Barrington, now 74, flew from North Carolina with her daughter Lisa and her two granddaughters, Leah and Kate, to meet more than 20 family members.
Both sisters have large families. Bland had five children and Barrington had three which made for a joyous reunion full of nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
They hugged, laughed and engaged in endless conversation. It was as if they never separated.
Bland had been searching for years, checking online sites, phone books and anywhere else she could. She did not know Barrington’s last name or where she lived.
“Dad passed away Dec. 1 in 1974 and in January,” Bland said. “I started calling directory assistance for Phoenix and Tucson, where we last saw each other.”
Bland finally located her sister last year, but Barrington was taking care of her dying husband, who eventually passed in May.
“Carol sent a letter and a picture of me when I was younger,” said Barrington,
Barrington had a relationship with her father in the early part of his life and Bland was a part of her fathers’ life in his later years. He was an officer in the Navy and served at Pearl Harbor.
“There’ve been lots of stories,” Barrington said.
The sisters discussed some of the stories involving Grandpa Salbeson, a Norwegian immigrant who settled down in North Dakota.
The family gathered again for a barbeque and reminisced, sharing photographs, memories and emotions.
“It’s nice to see more of our family,” Jamie Bland said.
The whole family said the experience was wonderful and the reunion timely after so many years.<Read More>