A reunion for a local family held a very special significance recently.
Former Red Deer resident Wayne Colban, 73, who now lives in Calgary, was reunited with his brothers after many years of searching for loved ones.
“I was just shocked,” said Colban. He said he feels a sense of fulfillment after finding his family and learning more about his own past. It’s not just connecting with brothers, but making new friends as well. “I’ve got all their phone numbers,” he laughs.
A gathering was held this past spring in Red Deer, and it was the first time all the men were together since 1945, said Colban’s friend Jim Adamchick who had been helping him over the years in the search for his family.
“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful journey,” said Adamchick.
As for Colban, he’s still adjusting to the reality of finding so many members of his family. He said he’s enjoying keeping in touch with all of them, and he even visited brother Neil at his home in Maine.
For Neil, the gathering in Red Deer was an unexpected gift.
“There was a lot of joy.” He recalled hearing the news he had another sibling.
“I got a call from my brother Roger saying that we had another brother,” he said. “He told me how Wayne had been searching for his roots and he would travel to different provinces and even to some of the United States. Every time he went anywhere, he would look in the phonebook to see if he could find a Colban.
“If he found one, he would call them and talk to them.”
He eventually asked Adamchick to help him out in his search. “So they started looking,” explained Neil. “They went back to Edmonton where he was born and looked through birth records.”
The eventually found the obituary of the brothers’ father, Gordon, which of course listed the surviving sons. “They then called the oldest – Roger – and explained the whole situation to him.”
Neil said his father had gone to war in the fall of 1939.
“While dad was over there, he got a congratulatory note from the Canadian government about the birth of his son. And of course, he hadn’t been home, so it really caused quite a problem – when he came back home, he was filing for divorce.”
He headed out to the west coast. But during the divorce filings, the boys’ grandmother went out to see him and convinced him that he had four other sons that loved him very much despite what had happened with his wife.
“She had a good talk with him and he said, ‘Alright, let’s get the family back together’.”
The family reconnected with him. Wayne, meanwhile, had been placed in foster care, and for about 20 years lived off and on at the Michener Centre as well.
“So when Wayne started searching, that’s when everything came to light about his relationship with the family.”
Needless to say, the brothers all wanted to meet Wayne as soon as they could.
Neil recalls calling him for the first time and introducing himself. “That was very exciting. Very exciting for me to have another brother,” he said.
As mentioned, arrangements were soon made for Wayne to visit Neil in Maine.
“We had a wonderful four days and it didn’t seem like there was a moment when we hadn’t known each other, which is really, really good.”
Another brother, Murray, who lives near Red Deer, said meeting Wayne was indeed a fantastic experience. “The reunion was quite exciting because all the brothers were there, and their wives.” He remembered the moment when Wayne came into the gathering. “We all stood and applauded.”
An unexpected sense of completion is now a reality.
“We are all together.”