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28-Year Quest Reunites 5 Siblings

April 07, 1985|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

SAN GABRIEL — The 28-year quest of Linda Arrington ended silently last week in the arms of her brother, Monty O'Dell.

They could not speak at first. Neither could the three other O'Dell brothers that Arrington brought together for the first time since they were separated at an Indiana orphanage.

The emotionally charged moment finally broke when the tearful Arrington whispered to Monty, "You have O'Dell ears. I'd know you anywhere."

The hastily arranged reunion took place Thursday, just one day after Arrington finally connected with her last lost brother. The other brothers--Clarence, Willard and Ford--call the event a miracle.

Adopted as an Infant

Arrington, 46, did not even know her family name when she began her search at age 18. She said she knew only that her father died when she was a baby, that her destitute mother placed the children in Madison County Orphanage, and that she was adopted in infancy.

With only her first name and birth date to go on, Arrington said the first thing she found was the birth announcement of a Linda O'Dell in an Indiana newspaper. In that same year--1939--an obituary marked the death of a George O'Dell, 78, who she figured must have been her father. That was also the year the siblings were separated at the orphanage.

From the few distant relatives Arrington located, she learned that her brothers had run away from the orphanage. Nobody knew where they went. Her mother had remarried, changed her name and moved away from Anderson, Ind., where the family had lived.

Arrington, divorced and the mother of two, continued her search after she moved to California 10 years ago. She lives in Arcadia, works for a Pasadena business and is co-owner of a cookie shop in San Gabriel, where the family gathered last week.

Arrington said that 28 years of following leads and making inquiries through such agencies as the Veterans Administration and Social Security had been futile. Then last May, Adoptees Liberty Movement Assn. (ALMA), to which she had appealed, traced Willard O'Dell to Modesto through his driver's license. He is 59, single and retired.

Arrington reached Ford, 57, last July by appealing to Social Security to forward a letter to him. He got the letter--a crumpled single sheet that he still carries--in Carpentersville, Ill., where he is married, has four children and is a warehouse checker.

Clarence, 60, has been living in Los Angeles for many years and was located last September through an Indiana acquaintance who found his address. He is single and retired.

World War II Veterans

The men said they ran away from the orphanage and had been on their own since their early teens. Once they went back for Monty, but the orphanage would not release him. They all served in the armed forces during World War II, and then lost contact with each other.

Earlier last week in Pasadena, three of the brothers met their sister for the first time since their separation. But Monty was nowhere to be found. Arrington had had no answer to a letter she sent to Florida, where she thought he was living.

Then came the miracle they talk about.

On Wednesday, Ford and his wife, Mary, planned to drive Willard home to Modesto, but they were unable to rent a car during the busy Easter week, so they arranged to stay a few more days in the Pasadena area.

Willard was in a bus station, about to return alone to Modesto, when Arrington's phone rang. It was Monty.

The last, elusive O'Dell, 52, was living in Oceanside, where the letter that Arrington sent to Florida had just been forwarded to his new address. He is retired and the father of five children.

Blue Eyes Match

"If we had been able to rent a car this never would have happened," Ford said.

"If the bus had left on schedule I'd be back in Modesto," Willard said.

"The good Lord brought us all together," Clarence said. "If one of us had died, we'd never see each other on this side."

"Here we all are. I just can't believe it," said Arrington, dabbing the blue eyes that match those of her brothers.

The siblings said that now that they have found each other, and have Arrington to keep them together, they plan to keep in touch.

The only out-of-stater, Ford, said that after his upcoming retirement he plans to move to California. "We have family here," he said.

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