I was born in 1958 from a relationship my mum had with an American airman named James Francis Larsen.
Whilst I had no father, my early childhood was good, with my mother and I living with my grandparents, in a bungalow on a farm.
When I was about 5 years old, my mum met and married a great guy, who brought me up as his son. This was and still is my dad.
It was during these early years of my life that I realised that I was different, even though I now had a dad, his name was not the same is mine!
My grandmother told me the story of my dad being an American, which made me feel special. Even at a young age I was curious, and I dreamt of what life might have been like in America.
Life went on, my mum and dad had a son , my brother Dean, and we were a family. I grew up very happily but still at times I would wonder about my American father.
In the late 1970s, I approached the American Embassy in London for advice as to how I might trace my father. I was given details of some agencies that I might approach, but they were not hopeful of any success. I wrote off some letters to the USA , but got only questions back.
In the mid 1980s, my grandmother gave me some documents from around about the time of my birth. These letters concerned an affiliation order that was issued against James Larsen so that he should pay maintenance for my upkeep. I thought that this must be the “key to the door” and again contacted the American Embassy.
I must say that a very kind lady named Linda, tried hard to help me but still on sending letters to official agencies in the USA, I got questions rather than answers. Frustrated, my search again hit brick walls.
Time passed, and I was now married with a young family, during the late spring of 2003, my 8 year old son Ben started asking questions about his grand parents. It seemed only right to tell him that his grand dad was not his biological grand dad. Poor Ben was most upset
“ Who is my grand dad then?”
Of course I could not answer Ben, I didn’t know myself but I decided to give it another go, I would try to contact my father.
I looked out an old video that I had recorded some years ago, a BBC documentary called War babes.
I am not an emotional man, but the subject was so close to home that it brought tears to my eyes. Almost as important was the information on the video about FOIA and access to military records. I at last had something to work with.
I did not have a computer at home so I started visiting the local library, researching what I could or could not do. During one of the library visits, I found the TRACE website.
I was astounded that there were so many people like me, yearning to know their circumstances!
I HAD to join this group and posted the letter off to Norma Jean on Independence day 2003. The same day I sent a letter to the NPRC to gain access to the records of my father.
I received a letter back from Norma Jean, with some advice and a TRACE badge. I then went on my summer holiday and on my return, THE letter from St Louis had arrived.
The letter listed the city of Yakima in mid State Washington as being my fathers address as of 1999.
The same day as returning from holiday, much to my wife’s displeasure ( I think I should have helped with the unpacking etc) I bought a computer, went on line and joined the TRACE mailing list!
I was again astounded as to the response when I put my story onto TRACE!
Advice and help came from all quarters, it was quite overwhelming but at the same time so very encouraging.
I now had a computer, so could search the internet for my father, but I could not find him even in a city of only 70,000 people that is Yakima.
At this time I was getting FANTASTIC help and assistance from Rhonda and Sally.
I paid $10 to the company US Search, but I got no telephone number, just an address.
I noticed that there were many different people listed at the same address, and assumed it to be a block of flats/ apartments.
By shear luck, I found that the address was a mobile home park that had an office telephone number.
I phoned this office and asked if they could give me the phone number for Jim Larsen at unit 33?
“Yes sure can, honey!
That was it , I had the telephone number!
This was the worst bit, I now had my father's telephone number. Could I phone him and if I did, what would I say?
This was potentially the most difficult phone call I would make in my life!
I decided to make the call on Sunday 7th September 2003. I plucked up courage only to be connected to his answer phone!
I tried again, (by now it was about 0100hrs Monday 8th September), he answered the phone!
My heart was in my mouth, I tried to be sort of business like, precise, but ended up saying my name and did he know who I was?
“ Yes, thank you for phoning me, there has not been a week gone by in my life that I have not thought about you!”
That was it, immediate relief, we talked for about 45 minutes. He phoned me the next day, we again talked for ages. It came so easily, it still does.
So what next, I just had to visit him and meet him after all these years. It wasn’t easy, but my employers were most understanding, and I managed to arrange a visit to Yakima on 1st November 2003.
He had sent me a photograph of him prior to my visiting Yakima. Nevertheless, to walk into the arrivals hall and be met by this man who looked so like me was a moment that I will remember all of my life.
“Hello son, long journey “ he said. “ Yes about, 45 years!” I joked.
My body clock said it was 0200hrs, but I had to stay awake. We went for a meal, held hands , talked about I know not.
I spent a week visiting my father and the highlight for me was what could be considered as an unusual event. My father needed to visit a hospital in Seattle, a drive of about 130miles. I drove him over there, took him to the clinic and then waited in the car park. After about an hour I began to wonder if he was OK, and could he find the car again. It was at this time that I realised that I had now began to care about this man. He is my father and we are family.
That’s about it, it all happened so quickly (in the end) but now my life is complete.
We phone each other weekly, we talk, joke and even disagree at times - but that’s what families do, don’t they?
The above story was written back in 2003 when my search took place. It was a life-changing experience in more ways than I realised at the time. During my search I met some wonderful people either helping or searching. One such person was Sherrie Stewart, who around about the time I was searching, found her own father.
Of course Sherrie and I had much in common - we were born in the same circumstances, around the same time and even in the same area. Anyway, in 2004 there was a TRACE reunion at the Imperial War Museum in London, which Sherrie and I attended and we got on like a house on fire. We kept in touch over the years, but lost contact when she moved to France.
Time went by and it was 2014 when Sherrie contacted me out of the blue. To cut a long story short, we at last got together and in February 2018, we were married in Gibraltar.
Think of the set of circumstances for Sherrie and me to get together!
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