One of the features of our Alumni History website is the Biographies section of our retired employees. A few years ago, we decided to "upgrade" the biographies by adding photos to the biography. This is usually a simple task, but for some it can become a real treasure hunt. This is a story of one those treasure hunts.
It all started when we were developing a vignette for our Innovations section and became alerted to a very special alumnus for whom we did not yet have a biography. For reasons of privacy, we will call him John Smith. Through queries of his colleagues, we knew John had a daughter; but her current name and location were unknown. A search on the firm HR archives, Google, PeopleSmart, and local colleagues yielded some information but no photo and no confirmation of the name or location of his daughter. Then one day, Bob Pailthorp, one of the Alumni History project's original volunteers and a volunteer on this special treasure hunt, reported that he received a response from a query of Ancestry.com. As it turns out, John also has a son, Michael, from a previous unbeknownst marriage. As Bob reached out to Michael about his father, he was surprised to learn he might have a half-sister. Michael was hopeful we would be able to locate her as he was most eager to learn more about his father.
About the same time, Bob suggested we look for John's obituary. A query of the Corvallis Gazette Times (GT) revealed that the Corvallis Public Library maintained the archives of the GT's obituaries. A call to the library hooked us up with a volunteer who sent us the obituary that revealed the identity of John's daughter, Ann. From there, we Googled Ann, which lead us to a MyLife website where we found her address and phone number. OK, now what? How do we inform Ann she might have an unknown half-brother? With some trepidation, Bob called Ann and informed her that we were preparing a biography of John and was hoping she might have a photo of him. And, oh by the way, you also may have a half-brother. As it turned out, Ann was very open and friendly and eager to provide photos of John. She was unaware that she may have a half-brother but was also looking forward to learning more.
The final step was to provide Michael and Ann with each other's contact information. As of today, there has been an exchange of emails and a possible Skype visit. Both were very appreciative of learning of their father's other life. The following is a response that Bob received from John's son, Michael.
First an apology for being so long in replying to your mail and secondly a very big thank you for all the information you have given me. With one exception, your help and information has brought me closer to learning about my father than all the preceding 70 years of wondering and looking.
The one exception is that today, I have received a long and informative e-mail from Ann ... - I have no doubt that you must (a).have had more than a little to do with this and (b). must have agonised more than somewhat as a long time friend of [John]. Be assured that your participation in this is hugely appreciated.
For me this is the end of 70 years of searching and I must confess that although my family usually consider me to be an unemotional analytical sort of guy, this arrival has somewhat floored me! even though it is what I have been seeking for most of my life.
I am now trying to gather my thoughts together (and trying to master the art of scanning and sending photos) and tomorrow - we are 10 hours ahead of you in France - will be sending a (hopefully) reasoned answer to Ann. Since she has also asked if we could use Skype, I shall need to borrow one of the neighbours' 12 year-olds to remind me how to use the D..mn thing.
Once again, a huge thank you, I am forever in your debt and my wife reckons she owes you too! I must have been a bit difficult to get on with sometimes! (I would deny that!)
This has been our most interesting and rewarding treasure hunt. We are also pleased that it has ended with a very special family reunion.
Your Alumni History Committee,
Gordon Koblitz, Dave Evans, Susie Gaare, Don Marske, Jim Schwing, and Special Volunteer, Bob Pailthorp