Photo: The Fort Myers Fla. News-Press
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The brothers had their share of challenges:
David Beyer didn't cry; Donald Thompson didn't sleep well and Noel
Thompson didn't know where his lifelong empty feeling came from.
this month, that all changed, as the three laid eyes on each other for
the first time. Separated their whole lives, the men finally met at the
Tampa International Airport after an extraordinary sequence of events
that started with an online search.
Adopted before birth by
parents who loved him dearly, Fort Myers resident Beyer, 74, had always
heard he had a brother somewhere out there, but the knowledge was
Sure, he wondered about it every so often, but never
enough to pursue it. In fact, Beyer, a retired carpenter, construction
superintendent and vintage car enthusiast, was pretty sure he didn't
want to know too much about his birth family, considering that his
biological mother had walked away from him.
But Beyer's daughter, Nancy Taylor, was curious.
"She wanted to know more about our family," Beyer says, "so she started looking around on ancestry.com."
is a family trait, and though there were enough dead ends, mistaken
identities and misspelled names to make an ordinary person despair,
Taylor kept at it, joining online forums, sending e-mails and making
out-of-the blue phone calls. Then in August, she hit gold, reaching the
daughter-in-law and son of Beyer's brother, a 70-year-old machinist
named Noel Thompson, who lives in Midland, Mich.
that, the two talked on the phone for the first time. Beyer recalls that
his brother's answers were short and careful.
"He didn't know the
first thing about me - what if I'd done time in jail? What if I'd
killed someone"? But trust grew, as did the family body of knowledge.
What Beyer hadn't known is that there was another half-brother named
Donald Thompson living somewhere in Arizona.
Nancy started digging again, and in less than two weeks, she'd found
him in Bullhead City. Turns out he was 92, an inventor, a veteran of
World War II and Korea and he'd been looking for Noel, though he had no
idea about David.
In short order, the three made plans to meet,
and Friday, it happened. None of them were prepared for the strength of
the emotions that overtook them.
"When I saw David for the first
time," Thompson recalls, "I had a pair of glasses around my neck and we
hugged so hard the lenses fell out."
Noel described the meeting as
finding a piece of himself he didn't know had been missing but had
always felt the loss keenly nonetheless. His brothers agree.
"There's just a similarity, a sense of knowing each other," Beyer says.
That feeling has brought unexpected peace to Don, who's battled post-traumatic stress for decades.
"It's hard for me to get close, and it's always been hard for me to
sleep," he says. "But now, I feel this incredible closeness to them -
and I'm sleeping."
They hope their extraordinary story will
encourage others in their situation to take the plunge, do the research
and find their families.
"We'd like to take this somewhere like
Jay Leno," Beyer says (if for no other reason than he's sure Jay would
get a kick out of his T-5 Mustang).
The new relationship has
rippled throughout the wider family as well, Taylor says, and she, her
siblings and their children are relishing the clan's expansion.
"When we're together, it just feels like we belong together," she says. "You can just feel the love."
The Fort Myers, Fla. News-Presser