Half Sisters Meet for First Time in Five Decades
Brenda Cofer Trumbo, 58 year old San Clemente resident, met her half-sister Wanda Cofer Long for the first time. For nearly six decades the sisters were unaware each existed which made their reunion bittersweet.
An 11-year-old Brenda discovered a photo hidden away in a linen closet. The photograph depicted a little girl with rosy cheeks. Brenda inquired about the picture and was told by her mother that the little girl was Wanda Sue, her half sister from her father’s first marriage. Wanda Sue had three brothers from the first marriage.
Though Brenda was still a child, she became increasingly curious about her newly discovered siblings.
“I tucked that little piece of information away and always wanted to find out where my brothers and sister were,” said Brenda.
Brenda’s father never mentioned he had four children. He lived two separate lives and the first set of children only saw him on occasion. Wanda never even knew her father had remarried. She recalls a special time at five years old when she saw her father and he gave her ballerina slippers. That memory stayed with her and is fresh in her mind to this day.
“The first wife wasn’t very cooperative letting him see the children,” Brenda said. “They were kept apart, and they didn’t realize they were kept apart. And my dad never talked about it.”
Brenda grew up to became a motorcycle sales rep. Her job took her to many places and every time she visited the Southeast she would contact all of the Cofers in the area hoping to find her long lost sister. She had a chance conversation with her long lost brother Kenneth Cofer but they did not figure out they were related until their future reunion. He thought Brenda was crazy when she contacted him.
“I started asking questions,” she said. “He thought it was some crazy lady. He got me off his phone. End of story.”
Brenda was determined and would never give up. She met an acquaintance, Kaye Van Fleet, after playing a game online and realized she was from her hometown. Brenda mentioned she was searching for her siblings and Kaye asked her about her father’s birthplace and where he lived. Kaye used the internet to find Brenda’s long lost siblings.
“That was on a Monday night,” Brenda said. “By Saturday night, she called me at 6:30 and left a message … hysterically sobbing. … She said, ‘Please call me … I have found your brother!’”
“He wants to speak with you!” Kaye said. “He remembers you.”
Brenda found out that her half-brother Kenneth, at 17 years old, visited his father in Iowa and saw Brenda when she was four months old. Kenneth then returned to his home town, and his father moved away with his new family. The two families lost contact.
Brenda and Kenneth spoke on the phone for the first time.
“Everything just spilled out,” she said. “We talked 3½ hours.”
Kenneth told his half sister that he and Wanda were the only two siblings left. Their two brothers had passed away.
Brenda was a little more hesitant about contacting Wanda. She searched for her on Facebook and felt more comfortable writing her a message.
“Something about her face made me want to write her first,” Brenda said
Wanda replied to Brenda’s message within hours.
“I have been searching for years to find out information about my dad, Charlie Durham Cofer, who I never knew I remember seeing him one time when I was a little girl. I have prayed for years to find out something about my dad.”
The sisters talked by phone and Brenda was shocked to find out that Wanda was unaware her father had more children. She didn’t have pictures or memories of her father except for her treasured ballerina slippers.
The sisters later discovered that their father passed away in 1980 at age 73.
Brenda and her full sister Joanne Cofer Pottorff decided to travel together to visit Wanda.
At the airport, Wanda, her son and grandson ran towards the two ladies with a box of tissues in hand.
Brenda said. “They just grabbed us and hugged and kissed. It was like I had always known them.”
The entire family visited the home their father built and Brenda showed Wanda and Kenneth pictures of their father as he grew older. They spent many hours sharing stories and photos.
Though the reunion had to end, the siblings stay in contact regularly.
To me, family is everything,” said Brenda. “I always wanted to find those brothers and sister, but I knew they were so much older than me, there’s a good chance they could be dead. So to find this one brother and sister was pretty awesome.”