Saturday, March 31, 2012

Project McNamara - the Reunion

It's the story you couldn't make up.  A man who doesn't know his father or his family.  The father who died in Viet Nam.  Extended family unaware the son exists.  People who are strangers try to fit the pieces together - and they all become friends and meet in a Reunion barely two weeks after the story comes to light.

The experience has to be unlike any that the participants had ever experienced in their lives.  As the story came together a half-dozen individuals kept emailing and asking questions about the only soldier to die in Viet Nam who listed Northwood as his hometown.  Ultimately Donald McNamara's son Shane Edgar was reunited with Donald's cousin Marv Everhart and Shane's cousin Amber Carberry in a glorious, emotional event..

Party Hostess Ann Swensrud Johnson said it best:  hugs and tears, pictures and stories, more hugs, more tears!  You can see it here - when Amber greeted Shane:

And in this impromptu move by Shane when he sat down next to Marv for "official photos" of the event:

The NKHS 62 blog helped to glue the parties together; Ann was the straw that stirred the drink; and Nancy Hengesteg was the link to the past who got it rolling.  Jan Mielke found the photos of Donald in the '63 LMHS Yearbook.  Art Kuennen was a link to the Carberry family since he had lived with them for a period of time.  (Whatever else I had to do today didn't matter - I had to be here, he said.)

And all of these folks, who were basically strangers just three weeks earlier, were bonding like they had known each other their entire lives.  From time to time they were shaking their heads at the incredible series of coincidences that led to this meeting.  As the pictures were passed around, people gasped when they saw Amber's daughter next to one of Shane's - but for the age difference, they looked like twins!

You'll recall from the last post that Kim Edgar's niece is dating Ann Johnson's grandson - unbeknownst to Ann.  And in another little twist, Shane reports his son Michael isn't too keen about attending family gatherings - unless Ann's grandson Nate will be there!

There's more to come for the Project, with a second reunion tentatively scheduled for July 5th, so some of the principals who live out of town will be able to join this unlikely gathering.  Until then, here are the folks celebrating with Shane on Wednesday the 28th:

Seated: Kim, Amber, Shane, Marv, Shirley
Standing: Nancy, Jan, Dale, Ann, Lee, Art

It was an amazing day, and typical for Project McNamara, was pulled together in about 48 hours.  Smiles.  Tears.  Pride.  Joy.  Sorrow.  Strangers once, now friends forever, all in memory of Donald Woodward McNamara.

PS: Ann served pie and coffee before we left.  Of course.

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