A Lewis Run resident has connected with his father after more than six decades of no communication whatsoever.
Bob Nielsen, 66, grew up with his only knowledge of his father a name on his birth certificate. Despite repeated requests to his mother for her to share the story of his paternity, Nielsen was faced with a void where knowledge of a father should be.
“I had his name on my birth certificate and no one would tell me anything about him. Even my mother wouldn’t tell me,” Nielsen said. “Then, she got sick when she was older. She had Alzheimer’s.”
The illness prevented Nielsen’s mother from sharing the story as a late-in-life baring of her soul. The family was left with the knowledge that Bob Nielsen’s mother had met a man in the Navy while he was in Bradford on leave. She married him and moved to California with him, as that was where he was originally from. She returned home when the marriage ended before a year had passed. When asked about the relationship, Nielsen’s mother always said that was part of her past and would not share anymore.
Nielsen and his older brother, Jack, grew up always wondering about their fathers. The two also grew up assuming they did not share a father as they do not look alike, but there was no confirmation of that fact either.
However, modern technology introduced another way to discover the side of Nielsen’s family he never had the chance to know.
Nielsen noted he and his wife, Sandy, saw the DNA tests offered through Ancestry.com on television.
“I said ‘I’m not wasting the money.’ It was $100 to have the test done,” Nielsen said. His wife, Sandy, and his daughter, Lisa Nielsen Laird, talked him into it.
Nielsen completed the test last fall and waited six weeks for the results to come in.
“We were so excited to see what we would find out, but in the back of our minds, we thought we probably wouldn’t find anything,” Sandy Nielsen explained.
When the DNA results came back, they indeed provided a look at the other side of Nielsen’s family.
“We couldn’t believe it, but he actually had a first cousin,” his wife said. “That cousin led him to discover the rest of the family.”
The rest of the family included several cousins and aunts, as well as two half-sisters. The biggest surprise came when Nielsen discovered his father, age 87, was still alive and residing in California.
Nielsen’s father is delighted, as he had no clue his son even existed. He tells him he loves him during weekly calls and can’t wait to meet him. Bob Nielsen also talks to his half-sisters on a regular basis, as they all get to know one another.
“He told me once, ‘If I had only known about you, things could have been a lot different in your life.’ He told me he was sorry. You could (hear) how emotional he was getting,” Bob Nielsen said of a call with his father.
His father cut that particular call short, promising to talk again soon and showing how strongly the situation affects him as well.
Nielsen shared some feelings of nervousness when it comes to the meeting in person. However, the geography of where his newly found family is located meshes well with the Nielsen’s future plans.
The Nielsens have a long-standing plan to relocate to Arizona upon retirement. Now that both have reached that stage of life, the plans are closer to becoming a reality.
“One of the neatest parts of this is that our dream always has been to move to Arizona when we retire. Our son (Robert) lives out there and our grandchildren,” Sandy Nielsen said. “We have been planning the move, even before we found his father. The house is for sale, if this all works out for us, we will be moving this summer. It puts us close to where his father is, within four to five hours.”
Once they are in Arizona, the family has said they will all come to visit — to meet their newly discovered family member and his loved ones.
Nielsen’s father also has a living sister that is 91. She calls Bob and Sandy Nielsen every other week, and she plans to travel to meet them when they get to Arizona.
Meanwhile, there are already some similarities in interests that Bob Nielsen and his father have realized they share.
“His dad loves old westerns, and Bob loves old westerns. They watch the same ones without knowing it and talk about it later and realize they both watched the same one,” Sandy Nielsen said.
The pair are looking forward to watching Westerns together in the not-so-distant future.
Meanwhile, on a sad note, Nielsen’s brother Jack did confirm he had a different father. His search is ongoing, and he fears his father may be dead and the answers may elude him.
Despite the lack of DNA connection between them, Howard Nielsen has reached out to Jack because he and Bob are close, and he accepts Jack as part of his family as well.
“Every time we really start thinking about everything that happened, we are just amazed,” Sandy Nielsen said. “It’s one of those stories that you never thought would happen to you. It brings tears to your eyes.”
“I’m still processing it,” Bob Nielsen said. “I’m not a very emotional person, but sometimes when I get off the phone, I have to go wipe my eyes.”