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Frank Gray

Courtesy photo
Charlene Kaufman of Fort Wayne found out recently that a brother she never knew she had, David Arbuckle of Kentucky, was looking to find his mother or her family.

Siblings learn of each other via Web

People are often warned to be careful what they put out on the Internet because it will never, ever disappear.

Sometimes, though, having a post linger for years and years can be a good thing.

Take, for example, the experience of a Kentucky man, David Arbuckle, and a Fort Wayne woman, Charlene Kaufman.

In 1997, Arbuckle approached a genealogical researcher in Hartford, Ky., and asked her to put a small message online. Seeking information on Olive Mae Munsell who married Kenneth Hoover, was all it said.

Years passed. Arbuckle, a coal miner, heard nothing and dropped his search.

In Fort Wayne, though, Kaufman had gotten into genealogy. She’d searched her family history and discovered they were related to someone who had come to America on the Mayflower.

One day late last year Kaufman typed in her mother’s name on Google and what popped up but that 1997 post of someone else looking for Olive Mae Munsell.

Who would be looking for my mother, who died 22 years ago? Kaufman asked herself

So she called a cousin and asked what he knew. You have a brother who’s been looking for you, the cousin told Kaufman. He’s been looking for six years. He’d called wanting to know where Olive Munsell was and whether she had any other children. The cousin told the caller “no” and never let Kaufman know about the call.

The cat had been let out of the bag, though, and last week Kaufman and her two children traveled to Kentucky, where she met her brother for the first time and they heard the whole story.

Arbuckle was born to Olive Munsell in Anderson, and one day his father picked him up and dropped him off at the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home, an orphanage. Arbuckle has no idea why.

About three years later his father retrieved him from the orphanage and moved to Kentucky, where he lived with a woman for a short time before he disappeared. Later, that woman turned Arbuckle over to a woman in her 60s, who raised him.

Arbuckle, who is now 68 and 12 years older than Kaufman, has never had a picture of his mother. He had no idea what she looked like. He didn’t know whether his father snatched him away from her out of spite and put him in the orphanage or what.

But he wondered. Where was his mother? That’s why he made the original post.

Kaufman, after visiting with her brother, called him “a great and productive person,” despite being handed off from person to person in his early years.

“He had been in the military and worked in the mines for 30 years and is now retired,” Kaufman said.

Meeting her brother for the first time was surreal and stirred difficult emotions, Kaufman said.

“How could you abandon your child?” she asked. “We’ve both been cheated. He’s getting up in years, but we can make the most of it.”

Arbuckle, contacted at his home in Beaver Dam, Ky., said he was in his preteen years when he started asking questions about his family.

“But I was always given negative information,” Arbuckle said.

His dad, who would occasionally contact him, said there were no other kids, even though there was another son who has since died.

“I gave up, and fortunately she didn’t,” Arbuckle said. “She kept chugging away.”

When asked about meeting his sister, Arbuckle said it’s been fantastic.

“She’s a wonderful person, a beautiful person,” He said.

Most men want brothers so they can hunt and fish together, Arbuckle said. “But I always wanted a sister.”

Plenty of mystery still surrounds it all, both say.

“For some reason there was a lot of secrecy in the family,” Arbuckle said. “Why did they get rid of me? There’s a lot of wondering,” and some hurt that he has learned to bury throughout his life.

Now, Kaufman has met the brother she didn’t know she had, and he’s met the sister he always wanted.

“If I had sat down and drawn a picture” of what he would want his sister to be like, “it couldn’t have been more perfect,” Arbuckle said. “I had always thought how wonderful it would be to have a brother or sister. Now I got my wish.”

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter (@FrankGrayJG).