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Lost and found

Terri Dumont has a story few would believe.

The Hart resident presides over an active household. In addition to her husband of 46 years, there’s her daughter and her two and four-year-old granddaughters, a couple of adorable little fireballs who definitely keep life going at high speed. Today, her sister, Trudi Dillingham, manager of the Fox Barn in Mears, has come by to help tell that story. The two women have always shared a close bond, but now they, and their three other sisters, have been united on an even deeper, and completely unexpected, level. Through Ancestry DNA, they recently found the brother they never knew.

Sitting around the dining room table, Terri, a thoughtful woman with long brown hair and a friendly smile; Trudi, her shorter-haired counterpart; and Debby, her happily harried daughter who’s obviously used to juggling three balls at once as she participates in our interview while keeping an eye on her two playful daughters, all join in relating the amazing details.

For most of her life, Terri had dreamed of finding her brother. The details were so sketchy that even Sherlock Holmes might have been stopped in his tracks. Terri’s parents were divorced and her mother was in another relationship when she became pregnant. Then her parents got back together. There were difficult family issues, and believing it would be best for the infant, her mother had given him for adoption.

That was where it ended. Although Terri had always wondered about her brother, her mother did not want her or any of her four sisters to look for him. The girls respected her wishes and the years went by. Terri did secretly make attempts to get more information, but was never successful

“It was in the days before Ancestry and DNA,” she says. “I tried finding him online but never had any luck.”

Then, after their mother passed away, things took a fascinating turn. In 2018, Terri’s daughter, Debby, noticed that Ancestry DNA was offering a special Mother’s Day package.

“I’ve always worked on the family tree,” Debby explains. “When I saw that Ancestry was offering a DNA kit on sale, I decided to try to find my mom’s brother.”

That was in May. Four months passed. And then—bingo.

“At 3 or 4 a.m. on Sept. 14, I got an email that the results had come in,” Debby recalls. “They had a match.”

As she waited for her mother to wake up, Debby initiated communication with the man who might be her long-lost uncle.

“I sent him a message on the Ancestry site and said, I think you might be my uncle. He messaged me back and said that I was the highest match so far. He had been looking for his birth family too. I told him my mom was looking for her brother, and he asked if I was related to the Rogers, my mom’s parents. When he sent his picture, that was it. As soon as I saw it, I got goosebumps. He was the picture of my grandmother.”

Bursting with excitement, Debby couldn’t wait to break the news to her mother. “Mom!” she told a stunned, and then elated, Terri. “We found him!”

His name was Michael Sich. He’d lived a happy life with his adoptive family, and today was married with his own family. He was 53 years old, the CFO of a bank, and lived in Nebraska. And he couldn’t wait to meet his new family.

“He wanted to meet all of us,” Terri remembers. “That was hard, because Trudi and I are the only ones living here. Traci is in Florida, Tami is in Oklahoma, and Toni lives in Utah. So we had to coordinate a reunion, and on September 1 of this year, we all finally got together.”

Before that happened, however, Terri navigated through a series of mixed emotions.

“I was very excited to meet him, but also nervous,” she admits. “I had these preconceptions. He was so successful; he had money, you know, and I thought maybe he’d be stuck up. But he wasn’t like that at all.”

It turned out Michael was equally apprehensive. “He messaged me that he was really nervous,” Debby says. “At first it was just supposed to be the siblings and their spouses, but then it grew to include kids and grandkids. And he was afraid that he’d feel like an outsider.”

Fortunately, all worries were dispelled when the big day came.

“We gathered here for a cookout,” Terri says. “We had a big banner that read, “Welcome, Michael and Nancy.”

“And I misspelled his name!” Debby groans. “I spelled it ‘Micheal.’ Don’t ask me how I managed that. But nobody noticed! Whew!”

As soon as Michael and his wife arrived, Terri knew everything was going to be just fine.

“There was a lot of hugging, and a lot of laughter,” she smiles. “It just felt great.”

“It was very comfortable,” Trudi agrees. “We all couldn’t stop smiling.”

Amazingly, nobody cried. They were too busy getting acquainted after 53 years. In a photo, Michael, an affable guy with silver hair and a warm smile, and four of his five sisters—Toni was not able to attend the event due to illness—look as relaxed as if they’ve been together all their lives. And hopefully that’s the way it will be from now on. The siblings keep in regular touch through Facebook, and plan to make the reunions a tradition.

How do Terri and Trudi feel now that their lifelong quest has been fulfilled?

“It fills a void,” Trudi reflects. “It’s like a hole that was always there is gone.”

“It feels like a completeness,” Terri nods.

As for Debby, she’ll always remember what her newfound uncle said to her as he left the reunion.

“We all signed the banner, and Michael and Nancy took it home. It was really neat—as he was leaving, Michael hugged me and said that I’ll always be his rock star, for finding him.”

Body of Hesperia man found near forest trail

The body of a 59-year-old Hesperia man, reported missing a day earlier, was found last Wednesday (Oct. 25) at 12:11 p.m. on a Manistee National Forest trail road in Oceana County’s Elbridge Township.

According to a press release, the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to a missing person complaint at 10:21 a.m. on Tuesday, September 25.

Lloyd Gauld was reported missing and that he had not been seen since sometime Monday, September 23. Friends had reported that they had spoke with the victim during the day on Monday and they believed he was headed to put up a new tree stand for bow hunting season.

Friends of the victim located his vehicle on Wednesday, and deputies made contact with the individuals who located the vehicle and began to search the area. Deputies located the victim approximately 100 yards from his vehicle.

There is no foul play suspected and it is believed that Gauld had some type of medical event while putting up his tree stand.

Assisting in the search were agencies from Walkerville Fire & Rescue, Ferry Fire Department, OCSO Reserve Division, US Forest Service, Life EMS, Hesperia Police Department and the Michigan State Police-Hart Post.

Road commission OKs $200K for Longbridge repair
 John Cavanagh  / 

A financial commitment of $200,000 plus engineering costs for the repair of Longbridge Road in Pentwater Township received Oceana County Road Commission Board approval at its regular meeting Sept. 25.

The move was immediately followed by a vote of confidence by the board for road commission Manager Mark Timmer.

“Thank you board, I appreciate it,” Timmer said.

The two action items were added to the agenda following a number of pubic comments from Pentwater Township residents wanting the road repaired immediately. The roadway crossing the mouth of the Pentwater River and Pentwater Lake has been closed since May due to high Lake Michigan water levels which caused water to flow over the roadway.

During public comments, Apache Hills resident Don Davidson told the board that the Lake Michigan water level has been increasing for six years and that it took two months this year for the subject to show up on a road commission agenda.

“We are becoming increasingly frustrated with the Longbridge Road closure,” Davidson said, adding that residents went through the summer and likely will go through the winter without any repair. “I have three words for you — do your job.”

Resident Ron Beeber told the board a Facebook page, “Longbridge Learn,” was recently created and has already reached a number of people. The page contains previously published letters to the editor and links to news stories by other media outlets. Beeber also pointed out a number of Pentwater area businesses have been impacted by the bridge’s closure.

“This is more than just an inconvenience folks,” Beeber said. “We feel you can’t be cavalier about it.”

Mark Trierweiler, president of a new coalition called “Open Longbridge Road Now” said organization members feel they have been disrespected and ignored. He said the road commission has made it very clear with words and a lack of action that people living on the south side of Pentwater Lake are alone. Trierweiler also said if someone dies from a medical emergency, they will hold Timmer responsible, adding it’s time for the road commission to own the problem and do something. He said they are out of patience and want to hear more from the road commission and they expect to hear when Longbridge is going to open.

Following public comments, Timmer said if he could open Longbridge Road safely tomorrow, he’d do it. He said there were three things that people have experienced due to the road closure which include”

• The length of the detour

• Delay in emergency response

• The delay in the school bus route

Timmer also said the bridge engineer has recommended that Longbridge remain closed until the water has receded and the road surface has dried out.

“Lake Michigan, a Great Lake, is sitting on our road,” Timmer said.

Hart Main Street seeks new director
 John Cavanagh  / 

Due to the recent resignation of Hart Main Street program Manager Julie Kreilick, Hart City Manager Lynne Ladner brought the monthly Hart Main Street report to the council Sept.24.

“The program’s board met to discuss the need for an interim manager and how they will proceed with Michigan Main Street in finding a permanent replacement. They reached out to a couple of individuals who they felt would be a good fit and Chris Rickard has agreed to step in as interim manager starting next week. She will be working part time to ensure the program continues in the short-term until a new manager can be found. I’ll continue to be involved to help make sure the program doesn’t lose ground.” Ladner said.

Mayor Ron LaPorte said, “Hart Main Street has brought and is still bringing a lot of good to town. I would hate to see it go away. Many people from Hart and surrounding communities, comment to me how it seems something is always going on.”