Open Session: What Readers Think

| January 2007


It's a small world - I read in CAPPER'S of several people who had found long-lost relatives or friends (Heart of the Home, October). It brought to mind an incident in my husband's family.

My husband and his two brothers had known since they were boys that they had a first cousin named Leo, but they never knew where he was. Leo was 2 years old when his father drowned in a neighboring county, and that was the last time they heard anything about their cousin.

Sometime after that, Leo's mother remarried and took the boy with her and her new husband to Chillicothe, Mo. When Leo was 10, he went to live in Boys Town in Omaha, Neb. He graduated from high school, joined the Army and, as is military rule, became known by his first name, Melvin.

I got on the computer in 1997 and started looking for Leo. I sent out letters, and a month later our telephone rang. The caller said, 'I think my husband is who you are looking for.' She said they had gotten the letter about a week before, but Melvin Leo tossed it aside, thinking it was a gimmick trying to sell him a book on his last name's family history. His wife opened it, read the contents, and she said they sat on the sofa rubbing the goosebumps as they recalled his life. She told me that his mother had said that he had no relatives, and I told her to tell him, 'Well, you have 47 first, second and third cousins, mostly right in the area where you once lived.'

Needless to say, we were all excited to learn where he was. Within two weeks, one of my husband's brothers and his wife made the trip to Wichita, Kan., to meet him. It was no problem identifying him, as he has many of the same characteristics of my father-in-law. They then came to Illinois to meet some of the other cousins.

Melvin was one of the six who were chosen to be pallbearers for Father Edward Flanagan, who founded Girls and Boys Town. Melvin's wife has since passed away, but we keep in touch. It took us nearly 65 years to locate him, but it can be done, and we are so happy we did.

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