Father, son meet for first time

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bennett Aughtman has lived with a major unanswered question most of his life — “Who is my father?”

But 48 years of wondering, Aughtman, who lives in near Friendship in the northwestern corner of Covington County, tracked him down in the southern Florida city of Groveland about two weeks ago.

“About a month ago when it snowed, I decided to look up my dad,” Aughtman said. “We got to searching on the Internet and making some phone calls. We found out he was still alive and lives in Groveland, Fla. He has some cousins that live in Laurel Hill. That’s why he was up here and how he met my mother.

“I have always known his first name was Leroy, but I didn’t always know his last name. I found out he was a Tucker.”

Aughtman called his half-sister on the phone and discovered his father, Leroy Tucker, has three daughters and another son, who was the same age as Aughtman.

Stepping out on faith, Aughtman and his girlfriend, Vicki Imm, made the nearly seven-hour trek to visit Tucker.

Aughtman said he didn’t call Tucker, rather he just showed up at his home.

“I didn’t know how he was going to react,” he said. “I knocked on the door. He invited me in, and I asked him if he knew any Aughtmans. I also asked if he knew my mother, and he said, ‘yes.’ Then I asked him if he knew who I was, and he said ‘my son.’

Aughtman said he and Tucker talked about how he met his mother, and said he was a result of an extra-marital affair, but the two have not discussed why there has been no contact.

“He and his wife were split up when he met my mother though,” Aughtman said. “He is still married to the same woman he has been married to for the last 50 years.”

Aughtman said through his visit he realized he and Tucker have a lot in common.

“He loves to fish and has been in tournaments. He showed me his trophies,” he said.

While Aughtman said there are still plenty of questions to be answered, he hopes he and the 80-year-old Tucker can develop a lasting relationship.

“It turned out pretty good,” Aughtman said. “I talked to him Saturday. We get along good, and he wants to get together again. The only thing is that it is hard because of the distance. We are planning a reunion up here in April so I can meet my other siblings.”

Aughtman said he has always heard how mean Tucker is, but said he seems very cheerful.

Aughtman said another reason he wanted to meet his birth father was to learn more about his paternal health risks.

“He seems to be in pretty good health, but I had no idea what to expect from his side,” Aughtman said. “I got to talking to him a little bit about it, and he has no really bad medical problems.”

All-in-all, Aughtman said the experience was like a dream come true.

“The timing couldn’t have been any better. I’ll probably talk to him again tonight,” he said. “It’s like I just won the lottery. I have a parent now. My mother died in 2006, so I haven’t had a parent for awhile. It sure changed our lives for the better.”

Aughtman said he encourages others who do not know their birth parents to try to find them.

“It really made a change in my life,” he said “I think for anyone who doesn’t know who their parents are should find out. Do it now, while you can. If you carry that burden then it’s just going to eat at you.”

It’s a great feeling and it’s very uplifting.”