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  • Associated Press In this image provided by Honolulu news station KHON, Alan Robinson, left, and Walter Macfarlane are interviewed in Honolulu. The two grew up as best friends and recently learned they're brothers.

Thursday, December 28, 2017 1:00 am

Friends for 60 years are actually brothers

Eli Rosenberg | Washington Post

They've been best friends since the sixth grade, a relationship that for many would feel like family.

And it turns out, they are: Alan Robinson and Walter Macfarlane, both of Hawaii, recently discovered they were brothers after knowing each other more than 60 years. The two learned that they had the same biological mother after independently doing DNA tests.

Robinson and Macfarlane, of Oahu, told their story this week to local television stations in Honolulu, after hosting a party Saturday to tell their families.

Recreational DNA tests have grown in popularity in recent years as the price of testing kits offered by services like 23andMe, and Family Tree DNA, have dropped to around $100 or less, despite some lingering privacy concerns. The results can turn up information about distant or unknown relatives.

They met decades ago and went on to play football together at the Punahou School, a prestigious private high school that counts former President Barack Obama among its alumni.

Even though the two had similar interests, and, looked alike, according to some people who knew them, they said they never considered the possibility that they were related, the station reported.

“It never crossed my mind,” Robinson said. “That's what's really amazing.”

Robinson was adopted by his family, while Macfarlane never knew his father, another local television station in Hawaii, KHON 2 reported.

“This guy was like an older brother all along,” Robinson said. “We'd go skin diving, I'd be making noise in the water, splashing around, he'd be teaching me how to do it right. He always came out of the water with a bigger string of fish. And I had the smallest.”

“As it should be,” Macfarlane chimed in. “You're my younger brother.”

Macfarlane took a DNA test after trying to seek out more information about his family online.

“So then we started digging into all the matches he started getting,” Cindy Macfarlane-Flores, his daughter, told KHON 2.

A username Robi737 came back atop the list of DNA matches. “Robi,” was one of Robinson's nicknames; he used to fly 737 airplanes for Aloha Airlines, Macfarlane's daughter said. Robinson had also taken a DNA test, the results of which had been uploaded to

Marfarlane and Robinson had identical X chromosomes; the men did some research and learned they had the same biological mother, KHON 2 reported.

DNA tests can sometimes lead to uncomfortable surprises; finding out that a parent or close relative is not actually related, for example. 23andMe no longer provides data on these types of results, but in 2014 estimated that 7,000 users of its service had discovered unexpected paternity results or learned about previously unknown siblings.

Both Robinson and Macfarlane described their surprise finding in positive terms.

“Yeah, it was shock,” Robinson said. “It was an overwhelming experience, it's still overwhelming. I don't know how long it's going to take for me to get over this feeling.”