Brenda Kluttz never expected to find her father, Arthur Shepard, who last saw her when she was a baby — just 2 days old — nearly 50 years ago.
Yet, last Friday, the two embraced for the first time in front of other family members Kluttz didn’t know she had until recently on the front yard of her sister and father’s Havre de Grace home.
“I just found my father after 50 years,” said Kluttz, of Georgia. “[It feels] amazing, I didn’t think it was going to happen, but it happened.”
Shepard, struggling to find words as he hugged his long-lost daughter while a tear rolled down his cheek, mustered “50 years? … God bless you.”
Kluttz, Shepard and Shepard’s other children had been searching for each other for years, and finally connected in April through ancestry.com.
“I had little to go on, I just had his first name, I knew that he lived in [in the Baltimore area], but I didn’t know where, so the last thing I could do was a DNA test, so I went to ancestry.com,” she said.
While Shephard hadn’t done a DNA test, some of Kluttz’s cousins had. “So I found him through several second cousins and it only took about three months,” Kluttz said.
Toni Saunders — Shepard’s daughter and Kluttz’s sister — helped arrange the surprise meeting of the two last week at her home, where Shepard also lives. Saunders knew about her sister since she was young, but efforts to find her over the years had proved futile.
“My dad actually sat us down when were young, like 10, 11, 12, and he told us, ‘before I married your mom I had a child out of wedlock, but I have no idea where she is,’” Saunders said.
“He would tell us ‘try to reach out to her.’ When social media became popular, we did a search trying to find her mom, where she was, but we had no luck,” Saunders said. “So we knew about [Kluttz], which really impressed my sister because she said ‘most men don’t reveal that part of their life,’ so that was the beauty of it. He told us, we knew — we didn’t know it would come or manifest, but we knew.”
Shepard said it was “overwhelming” to finally see his daughter. “It’s been a lifelong answer to a prayer.”
“It’s like two people in the universe looking for each other and having no idea where to look and I guess God thought that this is the time to be together,” Kluttz said. “So we can’t really question ‘Why 50 years?’ Because everything is in God’s time. We just have to be happy we saw each other before we went to the other side.”
Shepard said he planned to take it “one day at a time and enjoy every moment.”
Kluttz was eager to get to know her newfound family, who she said has been so loving and welcomed her with open arms since re-connecting with her father.
“I’m looking forward to lots of family time, lots of sibling time,” she said. “I want to get to know my siblings -- all of them -- and my nieces and nephews and cousins and aunts, I want to know everybody.”
Her sister was equally excited and interested to hear stories from Kluttz about her time in the military and having traveled the world.