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A Series of Unusual Events: The Circumstances Surrounding a Chance Reunion

Victor Carl August Johnson and Emelia Wilhelmina Orling were two Swedes living in humble conditions around the turn of the 20th century, both are my second-great grandparents (watch my recent YouTube video to learn more about Emelia’s life). Together they had 11 children, six of which lived to adulthood. Of those six, five were boys, and like many people of this time period, each boy left and immigrated to another country in search of opportunity and to build a life of their own.

Sigfrid, the oldest son of the family, was the first to leave when he was only 17 years old in 1905. His country of choice was Argentina. Nils was the next child to leave when he was 15 years old in 1910 and he headed for the United States. John, of whom I come through, left when he was 20 and followed his older brother to the United States in 1913. Carl left in 1916 and the last son Kenneth left in 1920, both also heading to the United States. When Emelia and Victor bid each son farewell, they were doubtful that they would be able to see them again in this lifetime, and although they were bittersweet moments, they embraced the fact that they were living their life and growing.

In the United States, the four sons kept in touch with each other and with their parents through letters, though no contact was ever made with Sigfrid in this time, and what became of his life in Argentina was largely a mystery.

Forty years later and for unknown reasons, Sigfrid reached out. It was 1945 and Sigfrid wrote to his mother Emelia back in Sweden. She returned a letter and told him about their family and where his brothers ended up in the United States. Emelia, being very excited, also wrote to her other sons in the United States and tried to tell them about the first contact made with Sigfrid. However, World War II was raging on and all foreign mail was being held just in case.

Carl and Kenneth, two of the boys, were living in Connecticut. Carl had become a photographer and had set up shop there in the town of Bridgeport. In 1945, before they were able to receive word from their mother about her newly restored connection to Sigfrid, they received a call. The source of the call was from Brooklyn, New York, not far from Bridgeport, and the voice behind the call was none other than their long-lost brother Sigfrid. At first, the two thought it a hoax, but after some time, Sigfrid was able to convince them that it was really him and the two brothers left Bridgeport to go and visit their brother Sigfrid where he was passing through on a cargo ship docked in the Brooklyn Harbor. It was a great reunion.

Fast-forward several years to the year 1949. John, of whom I come through was preparing to make his first journey back to his homeland Sweden and to visit his widowed mother who he had not seen in thirty-six years. Along for the ride was his son Egon, who is my mom’s father, or my grandpa. The occasion was Emelia’s 86th birthday and there was a grand celebration to be had. Since they were to travel over to Sweden, they decided to stop in Bridgeport, Connecticut to see Carl and Kenneth. By chance, Sigfrid was also to be passing through the East Coast for the second time coinciding with their trip. Sigfrid had become a Chief Petty Officer (mechanic) in the Argentine Maritime Navy and the boat he was stationed on was to be dry docked near Connecticut. The stars seemed to be aligned and the chance passing turned into a wonderful reunion between four of the five brothers and John was able to see Sigfrid for the first time in 44 years. They had a picture taken and built memories that would last them their lifetime.

Perhaps it was only chance, but perhaps it was not coincidental at all. Whether by divine design or not, it was undoubtedly a blessing being able to reunite with long lost siblings and renew relationships that had since been dormant. It was indeed a series of unusual events that led to a wondrous reunion.


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