CENTREVILLE, Va. (WUSA9) -- You could call them "Strangers in the Night," except they're not strangers anymore. Their mutual love for all-things Frank Sinatra brought them together in Centreville, Virginia, in a very unusual way.
"I looked at the ad and I recognized it was something unique and her interest in Frank Sinatra was something I could identify with," said Bob McConnell, a popular criminology teacher at University of Virginia.
"I've been also wanting to do something other than work and live in my own little world," said McConnnell.
The ad was placed by Brain Injury Services in Springfield, Virginia. They were looking for someone to connect with Haley Bruggeman, 20, who is physically impaired from a brain injury she suffered during a heart attack she had when she was 14 years old.
Mentally, she's fine. And she's become something of an expert on Sinatra, having heard his music played often by her parents, Bob and Pattie Bruggeman.
McConnell told the Bruggeman's he'd be coming through Northern Virginia on July 1, and would stop in for a visit.
WUSA9 aired a story about the upcoming, unusual meeting on Wednesday, June 29th.
Then Tina called. Tina Sinatra, Frank's youngest daughter who runs TSProductions.
The family had seen the story online and Tina tracked down Brooke Anessa with Brain Injury Services.
"'She said, 'Hi Brooke. It's Tina,' and I was, 'OK, great. First name basis, awesome!' Recalled Anessa.
"She was struck by how positive the story was. That Haley was viewed as this amazing woman who really had a passion for her father's music," said Anessa.
Tina Sinatra shared that her father was concerned that his music may not make to the next generation and she was thankful a Hayley is a big fan.
On July 1st, a box arrived at the Bruggeman house addressed to Haley. It was filled for CDs and records of Sinatra's music and books about the man and his life.
Haley was ecstatic and she pulled out the gifts. Then, McConnell arrived.
As he said he made his greetings, he looked down at the gifts and read the letter Tina Sinatra wrote to Haley. His mouth agape, he was stunned.
"Tina Sinatra called you? Wow. That is amazing. Tina Sinatra sent you all this wonderful stuff? Wow. This has gotten so big. It's doesn't get any closer to the man than this!" McConnell reflected as he surveyed the kitchen table covered with Sinatra treasures.
"What's your favorite Frank Sinatra song?" Haley Bruggeman asked her new friend through voice activation on an iPad.
Depends on the mood, McDonnell answered, and Haley and her parents all nodded in agreement. But, if he had to chose, it'd be New York, New York. Same with Hayley.
McConnell told her his favorites also include "Strangers in the Night," "Got You Under My Skin," and "My Way," though he considers the last one an inspirational fight song.
McConnell also shared a special memory.
"May 16, 1991, he was at the civic arena in Pittsburgh and so was I. I was 18 years old in 1991...It was just electrifying to see him. Everything went dark. And then this spotlight can out of nowhere and there he was. Silver hair...He went up on stage, the orchestra started. 'I've got the world on a string,'" McConnell sang.
McConnell also gave Haley one of his favorites books Tina Sinatra wrote, chronicling all of her father's major events. She'll cherish that...as much as the letter from Tina Sinatra.
Nothing pleases me more than knowing my dad has resonated yet again to another generation. This has been the basis for his longevity for other 70 years.
Haley, you are an inspiration to all who see and hear you. It's a privilege to know you, albeit from a distance. Finding your story on the Internet, in the middle of another dreary news day, remained me that life's challenges must be met. And with love and courage be defeated every time.
I hope enclosed , some of my favorite things, brings you and your remarkable parents many hours of shared enjoyment while making happy new memories together.
You go Girl!
Bob McConnell said he thinks the world would be a better place if everyone did one small thing to help others.