Joe Hall of Indian Lake has a heartwarming story to tell: “If you have 10 minutes, I’ll tell you all about it.”
ABOVE: Joe Hall, seated, of Indian Lake, is flanked by newfound brothers Dennis, Ed, Butch and Gerald Hall. BELOW: The Texas grave of a father Joe Hall of Indian Lake hardly knew. (PHOTOS SUBMITTED)
Mr. Hall turns a youthful 79 on Thanksgiving Day, and with his family will mark the occaion and give extra thanks for an unexpected blessing.
Until this summer, Mr. Hall had lived the better part of eight decades thinking he was an only child.
A June phone call “out of the blue” forever changed every- thing he thought he knew when the voice on the other end claimed to be his brother.
“Are you Joseph Noel Hall?” “Yes,” he answered.
“Was your father Charles Clyde Hall?”
“Yes,” he answered again.
And the connection was made.
But there was more. The caller continued by adding that not only did he believe he and Mr. Hall were brothers, but there were three more brothers waiting to meet the sibling they never knew.
A flabbergasted Mr. Hall asked for the man’s phone number and time to mull what he had just been told.
Once he had a chance to process the news, he called back and learned the four brothers, three who reside in Texas and one in North Carolina, had been searching for him for some 10 years.
Mr. Hall explained at age 7, his father had left he and his mother after the marriage failed.
He never saw his father again.
Life without a father was rough for a while, but his mother eventually remarried and his stepfather filled the role impeccably.
With this new knowledge, Mr. Hall went to his late mother’s cedar chest and pulled out all the pictures he could find, including one of the brothers’ paternal grandparents, and emailed his brothers.
But the telephone and email exchanges were not enough for Mr. Hall. He had to meet them, but had obstacles to clear before the trip could be made. His wife, Del, is home bound and unable to travel or stay by herself.
The couple’s daughters stepped in to take care of their mother while he was gone, clearing the way. He only needed a travel companion.
He turned to his friend and neighbor, John Spier, who didn’t hesitate to make the week-long trip to Texas with him, and in July, the two embarked on a life-changing road trip.
The day they arrived, he said, was filled with questions and stories. Some sad, some uplifting.
There Mr. Hall learned after leaving him and his mother, his father had moved to Daytona, Fla., and later met the mother of his new-found brothers. The new couple moved to and made their home in Texas, where the boys were born and raised. That marriage also was tumultuous, leaving the brothers with some bitter memories.
But their father had always talked about “Noel,” his son from a previous marriage.
That knowledge left the brothers longing to meet their sibling, leading to a 10-year search and the ultimate meeting.
Mr. Hall also learned where his father was buried. Needing some closure, he traveled to the grave site in a Midland, Texas, cemetery, where he found a lonely headstone in an obscure part of the cemetery.
It was moving and sad, but gave him the closure he had needed for some 70 years.
The week was filled with memories, old and new, and couldn’t last long enough for Mr. Hall.
“I was heartbroken to leave,” he said, knowing full well it could be the first and last time he’d ever see Gerald, Butch, Dennis and Ed. “They are four great guys. Their mother must have been a super lady.”
“If I can say it, it was one hell of an experience!”
So it is with a full heart that Mr. Hall will celebrate his 79th birthday and Thanksgiving with so much more to be thankful for.