[Hpn] Family finds long lost brother to fulfill dying man's wish

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Wed, 18 Aug 2004 04:10:37 -0700 (PDT)

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Family finds long lost brother to fulfill dying man's wish 

August 18, 2004, 1:47 AM EDT

ROCKY HILL, Conn. -- Robert Guillemette's family had given up hope after questioning alcoholics, liquor store owners, homeless people and police officers during a 10{-hour search of Meriden last weekend. 

They were trying to fulfill one of his last wishes as he lay dying of esophageal cancer in Westford, Mass. _ to find his brother, Raymond Guillemette, whom he had not seen since 1990. 

Their search on Saturday turned up nothing, and they left believing Raymond Guillemette had died homeless and alone. But news of the search turned out to be the key in finding their long lost relative. 

Rich Kunze, a nurse at the State Veteran's Hospital in Rocky Hill, saw an article in the Record-Journal of Meriden about the family's effort, and suspected he knew where the lost relative was _ at the adjoining veterans' home. 

"I said, 'This could be the guy they're looking for,"' said Kunze, who went to the veterans' home on his day off to confirm that the resident was Raymond Guillemette. He had a colleague call the family. 

Raymond Guillemette and his relatives were reunited Tuesday at the veterans' home and later left on a trip to see his ailing brother. 

"We've been looking for you for a long time," said Guillemette's sister, Theresa Richards, as she hugged him and choked back tears at the veterans' home, where Guillemette has lived since 1999. "It was quite an ordeal, but it was worth it." 

Robert Guillemette has been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the esophagus. One of his last wishes was to see his brother. The last time they were together was after the death of their brother, Roger, 14 years ago. 

Richards, 75, also of Westford, hadn't seen her brother since 1975. That was the year Raymond Guillemette's wife, Myrle, died. 

Raymond Guillemette said he "went berserk" after Myrle died. His lifelong drinking problem got worse and by the 1990s he had lost his life savings and his home. He ended up on the streets of Meriden collecting bottles and cans to make money. 

The family was close before 1975. They grew up on a farm in Graniteville, Mass., near Lowell. Raymond Guillemette remembered on Tuesday how he and Robert worked the fields together. 

Raymond Guillemette served in the Army as a glider pilot during World War II assisting in the liberation of Berlin and then moved to Rutland, Vt., where he worked as a roofer. The promise of work at the International Silver Co., also known as Insilco, led him to Meriden in 1964. 

Troubled by severe hearing loss, he is now at the veterans' home. 

After months of fruitless phone calls and Internet searches, Guillemette's nephew, Denis Richards, and his wife, Fran, of Merrimack, N.H., searched Meriden on Saturday with Guillemette's nieces, Janet O'Hare of Pepperell, Mass., and Dolores Holleran of Williamstown, W.Va. 

They searched old downtown haunts and talked with a number of people, but had no luck. 

Then the phone call came. 

"It's another miracle. The nurse who reads the article is from Meriden or we'd have never known," said Denis Richards who had imagined his uncle living on the streets or dead. "It's so much of a relief to know he's here and being taken care of." 

Raymond Guillemette is now on a 28-day visit with his brother. 

After signing out from the home, Raymond Guillemette, walking with the aid of a cane, slowly made his way to the family's sport utility vehicle for the trip, which he said he was looking forward to. 

"I miss that boy," he said. "He's the only brother I got." 

Copyright (c) 2004, The Associated Press 


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