Two siblings have been united for the first time, after a lifetime of unanswered questions and family secrecy.
In the early 1940s, James Long, originally of Rockingham, asked his wife in New Orleans, La., to pack her things and their infant daughter and move back to Rockingham with him. His wife refused, and after a disagreement, her uncle and brothers tossed Long out. He never returned.
Long left to fight in World War II, leaving behind Catherine, his daughter, who grew to be filled with questions about her father.
“I had stepbrothers who said, ‘You don’t have a daddy. Mom found you on the front step,’” said Catherine Kinler, 70. “I grew up with my grandparents. I was told not to ask questions about my father, and that it would only upset my mother. My grandparents would say, ‘One day you’ll know it all.’ That day never came. What I will never know is, why didn’t he ever come back after me? He knew where I was. I thought it was my fault.”
The questions still make Kinler emotional today.
“I don’t think he was too proud of his past,” said Kinler.
Her parents had been Catholic, and guilt weighed heavily upon her mother, who had remarried.
Long returned to Rockingham and settled down. He married and they had three children. Jennifer and Sally were born in the late ’60s, but Wesley Long, the oldest sibling, was born in 1947 and grew up not knowing his sisters. Wesley Long was grown before Jennifer came along, and Sally was deaf and mute and grew up in Mt. Olive.
“Daddy was always quiet, he didn’t tell you much,” said Wesley Long. “He didn’t want you to be able to nail him down on anything. He didn’t want to bring back the past. I was raised by my grandparents. He worked for the railroad here and so did his daddy, and I did, too.”
With his father deceased, the last thing Wesley Long expected was a call from the past.
“One day last year I get a phone call, and the person on the phone says, ‘This is Catherine. I’m your sister. During World War II my momma and your daddy got married,’” said Wesley Long, with tears in his eyes. “I didn’t know what to say. I think it was amazing.”
Kinler came to know her brother existed after dozens of dead-end leads on Ancestry.com.
“At the end of 2011, while searching, I got a message from someone named Jo Boras in New Jersey who said we were first-cousins,” said Kinler. “We had the same grandmother, Bessie Mea McDonald. We emailed back and forth. She told me about a lady in Rockingham named Sandra Elliot.”
Kinler contacted Elliot and learned about Wesley Long. Soon, Kinler and her husband purchased a camping trailer and hit the road for Rockingham.
“I wasn’t sure what I would find,” said Kinler about being nervous on the trip up from her home in Baton Rouge.
Kinler and Long said that when she knocked on his door, the encounter was emotional and filled with hugs.
“I could see my daddy in her,” said Long about his sister. “We went to see our aunt together in Laurinburg.”
“I felt really comfortable (in Rockingham),” said Kinler, who said growing up she felt somewhat out of place. “Here in Rockingham I look like a lot of people. At home I looked like nobody. My aunt said, ‘You look just like Jennifer.’ And Jennifer gave me a necklace that was a cameo that belonged to my great-grandmother.”
Kinler and Long reunited this fall for the second time, and Kinler plans to get to know her Rockingham family as much as she can.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.