An Internet family reunion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 3, 2004

New Years' Day has traditionally been celebrated as a day of beginnings, and for 70-year-old Ed Leigh Schad of Andalusia, this year marks a special beginning of a relationship with long lost family members.

Schad is the husband of Lenora Edgar, an administrative assistant at the Andalusia Adult Activity Center. Through Edgar's help, Schad said he found a piece of his life that had been missing.

"Lenora and I found relatives living in North Carolina and one in Virginia," Schad said. "My mother had a picture of my biological father, and she married my stepfather when I was young. When I grew up, she showed me the picture. His name was Lock Kelley."

Schad said Kelley was from North Carolina, but had stayed in Brewton, where Shad grew up, for a while.

"(My father) came down to this part of the country, and he grew short on money. So he went to work for my grandfather on (his) farm," he said.

"That's where (my husband) stayed until he was twelve," added Edgar.

Continued Schad, "I was born and raised in Brewton, but as I grew up, I thought about (my biological) family often."

According to Schad, computers were the key factor in locating his blood relatives.

"Before computers came out and Lenora got on the computer (to locate my family members) to send letters to North Carolina and Virginia, there wasn't much I could do (about my fascination)," said Schad.

Edgar said she "sent four letters in all."

The letters were almost never opened until a flood prompted interest.

"It was more than three years that we spent looking for them, and it was three years before they responded," Schad continued. "There was a flood in their hometown, and it put a lot of things on hold. The letters were saved in the flood by Lock Kelley, Jr., who dug them out of the flood. He read them and called me.

"(Kelley, Jr.) has one sister that lives in Tampa, Florida. And he told her about me, and she came to see me Thanksgiving weekend," he added. "Then we decided to go Christmas Day for the reunion in North Carolina."

Schad said the reunion was big and he was amazed how much he looked like his uncle.

"My uncle knew about me living with my grandfather, because of Lock (Kelley's) brother. He told me all about it. He is much older than I am, but we are spitting images of one another."

Schad said some of the mannerisms he and his relatives, with ages ranging from 52-68, share are similar.

"(My husband) laughs like they do and talks like they do," Edgar said. "His mouth is even the same shape as his uncle's."

"My daddy (Kelley) was a musician, and my stepfather and all of his family were musicians also," Schad said. "That's how I took up music, and I just learned by ear."

Edgar said after Schad and Kelley, Jr. found out they had the same father, both were in shock.

"We emailed them a picture after he said he thought they had the same father, and then he called and told (Schad), 'that's my dad,'" she said.

"It felt really good," Schad added. "It was a missing part of my life, and I was fulfilled afterwards.

"My husband told me he got a call from his brother, and I started crying," Edgar added. "I couldn't believe it. There were so happy they finally met each other."

Edgar said there were approximately 50 people at the reunion, including children and grandchildren.

A special part of the reunion for Schad came when Kelley, Jr. gave him a family watch.

"His brothers and sisters showed him a watch they received with 'Kelley' on the back of it," Edgar said. "We didn't think anything about it, but (Schad's) brother told him to come there and gave him a watch just like it."

"It was a $300 watch - a Swiss Army watch," Schad said. "The fact it had 'Kelley' on it was special."

Schad said the reunion was touching, and he added he felt comfortable with his relatives.

"That's how it came about," concluded Schad. "We just had a wonderful time, and I wish we could have stayed longer."

Schad's reunion concluded Sunday, but he said he looks forward to many more visits with his newly-found relatives.