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Jan 24, 2012
I hope everyone got to see or at least read about the two brothers that were reunited after 76 years of being separated. The reunion was facilitated by a nephew, Tom Hickson. The HIXSON family's roots go way back in Tampico & vicinity.Tom has been a speaker for the TAHS on a couple of occations - once at the Yorktown Cemetery Walk several years ago. Tom has donated a 5" binder filled with HIXSON (sic) Family History. He has since revised it and is working on getting us a revised edition asap. This is such a great story and should give insight as to why we family researchers/genealogists are so passionate about what we do. Tom is planning another visit to Tampico in the near future. If you've perused our Picasa Photo Albums of the Birthplace, you may have seen Tom's granddaughter, Chrystal, stepping through the window between the Reagan's apartment and their neighbor's & babysitters apartment. https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Sn_WF6j7cnkhXPnSngV_P9MTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink
Long-lost brothers reunite in Moline
Rashah McChesney | Posted: Monday, January 23, 2012 2:00 am
The last time Bob Huntley, 81, saw his little brother, LeRoy Huntley, 79, it was 1936 and the two had to be ripped from each other's arms in front of a Rock Island orphanage.
They shared a hug for the first time in 76 years Sunday, outside of Bishop's Buffet at SouthPark Mall in Moline.
Bob, of Orion, Ill., arrived at the restaurant first and stood for about 15 minutes in the mall fidgeting and wringing his hands.
He said he was anxious.
"If I was a spring, I'd be bouncing all over the place," Bob said. "This all happened because my mother passed away, and my father didn't want to raise us. He was an alcoholic and just didn't. So, they put us in the orphanage."
LeRoy, Bob, their two older half brothers and a younger sister were separated, and the three youngest went to the Bethany Home in Rock Island.
As he watched for LeRoy, who drove to Moline from Sheboygan,Wis., among the crowds at the mall, Bob said he couldn't wait to meet his younger brother and wondered aloud what LeRoy would look like and why he was late.
"I know one thing, he's bound to be good looking," Bob said with a smile.
Then, he paused and looked off into the distance, straining to see around a bend in the hallway.
"I don't care what he's done though his life, it's just from here on," Bob said. "I ain't never been an exact angel myself."
Bob's wife, Phyllis Huntley, and LeRoy's wife, Catherine Huntley, found each other and stood nearby as the two men embraced for the first time.
Bob put his hand on LeRoy's shoulder, then touched his younger brother's hair, then put it back on his shoulder. The two put their heads together and talked for several minutes before heading inside to eat with their family.
The brothers' nephew, Thomas Hickson Sr., 59, of Moline, played a large part in reuniting the two.
"I started years ago, before the Internet," Hickson said. "We were going down into the basements of courthouses and archives and digging through boxes and chasing addresses. In the basements of some of the courthouses there were cockroaches big enough to throw saddles on and ride around."
Hickson said he went through about 200 people before finding the correct LeRoy.
"You have no idea how many people have the same name as you until you start looking," Hickson said.
Hickson tracked down LeRoy just after Christmas and said the brothers spoke together on the phone for the first time on New Year's Day.
"I thought that was a good way to start out the new year," Hickson said.
While they ate, Bob and LeRoy talked about their lives and the events that brought them back together.
Bob had a relatively good childhood, but LeRoy said he was abused by his adoptive parents and ran away, ending up on the streets of Chicago.
Bob worked at a company making aircraft controllers for 33 years before the shop closed, while LeRoy said he bounced from one job to another.
"I had to learn everything the hard way. I didn't have what they called a ‘good education' at the time," LeRoy said. "They learned me how to be a bricklayer. I learned how to pour cement. I worked for some of the big jobs in Chicago. When I was young, I was never scared of work."
As LeRoy spoke, Bob reached over and touched his younger brother's callused and age-spotted hands.
"I could tell he worked hard," Bob said. "I could see his hands."
LeRoy smiled as he squeezed Bob's hand. "They're kind of old," he said with a laugh. "I get that rheumatism arthritis, and they hurt bad sometimes."
As the two shared stories, Bob said he couldn't believe it was happening.
"I think I'm starting to calm down a little bit," Bob said. "I don't think I touched the floor all the way in here. It's great, I love this little guy. I still call him a ‘little guy.' He's still my little brother."
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