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Finding Ernest Andrews

by Rhonda England

Rhonda England & Jim Lee

Back in January, when I luckily managed to get 3 members of Trace and the Founder of Trace Pamela Winfield on the Richard and Judy Show, a family member of the Lee family saw it and told Andy Lee about the programme. Andy contacted Trace and put his details on the email site. I saw this email and asked him to contact me if he was interested in me helping him (little did I know, how involved I would become).

This was back in February. Andy got his Mother Ann to ring me and give me as much detail as she had. It turns out that her husband, Jim, was put into a children’s home and later adopted, his natural father was a black American GI who was stationed here during the second world war. She gave me various pieces of information that they had, including a name - Ernest Andrews. Some of the information that they gave me came from an Aunt who has since died, but a lot of what she told the family turned out to be lies. We searched and we searched but no Ernest Andrews. I was beginning to think we would never find him. Jim let slip that he did not have his birth certificate, the fundamental things you think someone has done, so it was a lesson to me to go right back to basics.  Jim applied for his birth certificate, and low and behold there was his father’s service number. I suggested to Andy to put these details on the Trace email site, just in case we could find further details and thanks to Steve Krulin we tracked him down to New York. Finally thinking we had got there, there was no telephone number for Ernest Andrews in any directory - so near yet so far.  As Steve had listed other members of the Andrews household, I decided to look on the whitepages to see if any number with those names came up and low and behold a Rudell Andrews appeared. This turned out to be Ernest’s wife.  Andy and I did not tell Ann about this because we have had so many false starts and Jim’s nerves would not have taken it.  Armed with a phone number, Andy’s wife Katie tried to get through but no reply.  At around 11 p.m one Wednesday night, I told them to go off to bed, because I was prepared to stay up all night to see this through, and if I got any information I would ring them up.  

Around 11.30 p.m I telephoned again. I must say I did feel a bit apprehensive in case the phone call did not go how we all had longed for. The phone rang and rang then it was picked up by a lady. I had to keep calm but inside I was a nervous wreck, I said I was calling from the U.K and that I was looking for Ernest Andrews who served in the Military during the Second World War. Rudell said: "Yes, I will go and get him for you".

Boy, my heart was pounding, Ernest came on the phone and I asked him various questions and it was yes to all. I made sure it was okay with Rudell to continue and once I had established everything was okay I just said “Oh Ernest you are a hard one to find!” He chuckled, I then told him he had 6 grandchildren and great grand children. He sounded really happy and was laughing. I asked him if it was okay if his grandson Andy could ring him because I knew once Ann and Jim got on the phone, it would be morning before anyone else got a chance to ring.  Once I put the phone down I felt elated because I knew the next phone call I made would be one of the most exciting news I could give.  I rang Andy and told him we have found granddad and he was waiting for him to ring. I then asked if it would be okay to ring Ann, because I had always promised her that if we found him I would let her know.  Jim had to adjust his feelings and let the rest of the family search.  I think Jim was frightened in case he would be rejected.    I phoned Ann and Jim, got them out of bed and told them the news. I gave Ernest's phone number to Jim, but when Ann repeated it to me, he had got it down wrong, probably due to the shock!  I told Ann to ring me once she had spoken to Ernest and around 3 am the phone went and it was an excited Lee family.  It was wonderful, my help was complete.

Hopefully, Andy Lee will write and follow the story through.

Andy, Jim and Ann went out to New York a few weeks later to meet there ‘new’ family.  I phoned whilst they were out there and they sounded like they were having a ball.

The Lee and Andrews Family

In early August, Ann phoned me to say they were having a family barbeque, as Kevin, Andy’s brother was coming over from Australia and Ernest, Rudell, Ann, Jim’s half sister, her husband Delano and daughter were coming over for a visit and would I be able to come up to Nottingham. Wild horses would not have stopped me from meeting the family. We arrived and met everyone, it was marvellous. I felt so proud to have been part of this. Meeting Ernest and Rudell was fantastic and to see the contentment of Jim and Ernest was just wonderful to behold.  

Ernest & Jim - A picture we only dreamed of!

Jim’s half sister Ann told me that when I had spoken to Ernest for the first time, he broke down in tears with joy, because he thought he would never see Jim again.  Ernest had told Rudell and the family about Jim.

Delano – Ernest’s son in law and Ernest barbequing