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From the Green Valley News, Sunday 13 May 2012, page A14

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

Another Miraculous Reunion in California

"Bad news sells newspapers," according to an old saying. Sometimes when we look at the front page of a newspaper, it does appear the only news fit to print is bad news. One type of good news story that often makes it into print is a feature about family members long lost and then reunited usually after years of diligent research.

The Hemet News in Riverside, California recently ran a story about a reunion between two families neither of whom knew about each other.

In 1938, nine year old Merle Crouch's father sent his wife Eunice and four children off in a car with another couple for a vacation. Nebraska trucker Wesley Francis Crouch said he would meet them in California. When he never showed up his wife and children worried what had happened to him. Finally they hired a detective who couldn't produce any clues and just presumed he was dead.

The family decided to stay in California where they had relatives. Merle and his sister Marilyn eventually realized they might be better off without their father, a man with a mean streak who often humiliated his children.

Meanwhile for some unknown reason Crouch had changed his name to John Wesley Colvin and assumed a whole new identity. He met a woman and had three sons with her, finally marrying her in 1965. His new family knew nothing about the ones he had abandoned.

Colvin's son Butch recalled moving 19 times, living all over the Midwest and Northwest. His father would come home and say, "We're moving. Be ready in an hour." Butch remembers right up until he died in 1993, his father acted like a man with a deep secret. He often took off by himself and frequently appeared lost in thought. He would never talk about his past.

Butch's wife Dora's became interested in genealogy. She wondered why she could find no census records for her father in law. He seemed to have no history before 1940. She asked him his mother's name and finally got the clue needed, but it took nearly five decades and a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to solve the mystery of the man they thought they knew.

With the help of a family friend, this winter Butch and Doris tracked down his half-brother Merle Crouch and the mystery began to unravel. Merle's wife Marianne Crouch answered the phone and heard a stranger ask if she knew Eunice Crouch. Marianne said that was her mother-in-law who died in 2007. "We found her!" exclaimed the stranger.

The two families met for the first time early in March, sharing stories, photos, many tears, and recalling their mutual father as they tie together a lifetime of loose ends. The half-siblings have discovered they resemble one another and have much in common. Two of the half-brothers were truck drivers like their father, and figure they likely passed one another in truck stops over the years.

As to why his father disappeared, Merle Crouch, now 81 years old said, "I was looking for closure, and this was it. I'm not angry at anybody anymore. I just want to have closure and know what happened."

Dora Colvin summed up the reunion saying, "Finding them is the solution. The miracle of the whole thing is the fact we found them and now we can have a life that includes one another. I just wish we had found them 40 years ago."

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