This was one surprise knock on the door by a deputy that Jake Robison celebrated.
When Kootenai County Sheriff’s Deputy Chip Hanson delivered a message to Robison at his Hayden home this fall, Robison was intrigued.
“The deputy had a smile on his face, so I knew it was OK,” Robison said. “The message said to call a family member, but I didn’t recognize her name so I called her.”
The message was from his sister, Millicent Smith, who Robison hadn’t connected with in 65 years. It turned out that Smith had been searching for her younger brother for more than a year.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
Robison, who lives in Hayden, never hesitated to call the number after receiving it from Hanson.
“Within an hour, the phone rang,” Smith said with a smile. “It was incredible. I was so nervous, but excited. We talked for 30 minutes, and I believe he felt as excited as I did. We said, ‘At some point, we’re going to have to meet.’ ”
After multiple phone conversations and texting over the past few months, the two met at Spokane International Airport and spent the next few days catching up.
“To make eye-to-eye contact with him was amazing,” she said. “It was finally real, and it’s going to be real for the rest of our lives. This has been an early Christmas.”
Smith, from Fayetteville, Tenn., ironically was considering taking in the Gonzaga-Presbyterian College women’s basketball game in Spokane before the siblings were re-connected. The reunion with her brother solidified those plans.
Smith’s granddaughter, Cortney Storey, plays for Presbyterian, and the siblings, along with Robison’s daughters, Wera and Grace, attended the game together.
“It’s been a story of restoration and reuniting,” Robison said. “It’s been a long time. Never give up on meeting your relatives.”
Smith said she and Robison’s parents separated when she was 4 and Jake was a baby.
“We never came back together again,” Smith said. “The only way that I remember that there was a baby was that I had his baby book.”
Robison grew up with his dad in Santa Barbara, Calif. Smith was raised by her mom in Decatur, Ill.
“There’s family dynamics that we don’t want to get into,” Robison said.
Smith added: “Nobody ever wanted to talk to us about it, so it must’ve been a painful situation. We can only speculate.”
Smith, 69, said friends and her children encouraged her to search for her brother.
“So many years went by that I thought maybe there wasn’t a chance to find him, but they continued to encourage me,” she said.
Robison, who is retired from Sears at 65, said he knew he had a sister, but didn’t know how to contact her.
He said he knew “right away” it was his sister when she called.
“It still hasn’t sunk in,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that after all this time that she found me. She stayed diligent and found help to find me. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Robison said the only memory he had of his sister was her pushing a baby carriage with him in it.
The siblings thanked Hanson and dispatcher Staci Syth at Kootenai County’s 911 Center for their role in connecting them.
An ancestry lead pointed Smith to North Idaho, but, with many people with the last name of Robison in this area, her search wasn’t over.
Upon further research, Smith learned that someone with a similar name to her brother’s could possibly be living in Hayden.
That led Smith to call Kootenai County’s dispatch center. Syth told Smith that she couldn’t provide her with the address for privacy reasons, but she could request to have a deputy deliver a message there to the person she thought was her brother.
Syth has been a dispatcher for 24 years and, while she has played a role in connecting family members before, this was the first time for a reunion as long as 65 years.
“We’re really happy for them,” Syth said. “Family is important. We’re glad they’ve connected.”
Hanson said he didn’t know the siblings hadn’t been together for 65 years when he delivered the message to Robison.
“I only found out (on Monday) about the whole story,” Hanson said. “I usually don’t get to find out the results of such calls. It feels good to know that I did a small part in getting them back together. This was one of the more pleasant calls that I got to go on that day.”
Smith left for home, but not without the experience of getting acquainted with her brother and much more of that to come. Robison has six children and Smith three, so the reunion has a ripple effect with the cousins having a lot to look forward to.
“It’s been such a blessing,” Smith said. “Had I not had the baby book I would not have known his name or which direction to go looking for him.”