Brothers reunite after 70 years apart

The story of the Holland brothers goes back more than 80 years.

It began when two young boys were pulled away from each other, only to find each other 70 years later living on opposite sides of the country..

"I can't believe it. It's got to settle in to me for a while."

Frank Holland, 83, and John G Holland Jr., 84, hadn't seen each other since the mid-1940s.

They were separated at a young age, when both were about five. Frank had been abandoned by their mother, while John was left at the children's home by their father.

When Frank was abandoned, he was originally put in another home, to quarantine him because he had whooping cough. They were briefly reunited when Frank was moved to a safe spot at the same home as his brother. He said John, or Junior as he calls him, snuck in to say hello to him while he was sick.

But a few years later, when the two were 13 and 14, they were split apart again.

"I went with an aunt of mine and Junior was still in the home. He stayed there until he was 18 and he went in to the Navy," said Frank.

For the next 70 years, the two brothers never heard from each other, despite many attempts to reconnect.

"I sort of gave up. And I think in a way he sort of gave up too. But we never forgot who we were and what we were looking for," said Frank.

But that changed earlier this year, after Frank went in to get a surgery, and told the story of his long lost brother to his nurse.

That nurse connected Frank with a lab assistant at Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael, California. The lab assistant, Gabrielle Albrecht, had previously been private investigator. After searching through a long list of John Hollands, she finally found a match; that person was John's son.

"She said, 'Well, I have Francis here,' and I said 'where is here?' and she said, 'Francis was having surgery for cancer and he wanted to see his brother because he was afraid after he had that surgery it would be the last time he would wake up from it,'" said John G Holland III, Junior's son.

Then came the call.

"Uncle Frank kept on saying, 'Junior? Junior?', And then my dad said, Is this Francis? He said 'yes, but I like to be called Frank now.'"

Their conversation lasted an hour, before the two brothers decided it was time to meet face-to-face.

"It was hard for me to believe to start out with because it had been so long since we had really been with each other," said Junior.

"He was asleep and I went over to him, and I woke him up gently, and we embraced and I cried then too," said Frank.

Even after seven decades apart, the two found they still shared similarities, even little things.

They both said they are quiet people, and both wrap a rubber band around their wallets; a trait they said they picked up over the past 70 years.

"It was a surprise. A good one," said Junior.

They shared some stories of major life events as well. Frank lost his wife in 2006, and has been living alone since. He said it has been lonely, but this single phone call has rejuvenated him.

"I now have a family. A whole family. Not just my brother. I got all of his children. I didn't have any with my wife. We married late," said Frank.

They don't know how long it will take to make up for lost time, but they both are sure of one thing. "I know one thing. I love him. And I figure that is one thing in life that I wanted to accomplish to be with him again," said Junior.

Another thing the two are sure of: it won't be another 70 years before they see each other again.

Last week, they vacationed together in Pigeon Forge in a couple of cabins. Then, the Holland family plans to go visit Frank in California.


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