Brother, sister meet after 47 years during reunion

One woman’s dream meant that a brother and sister who had not seen each other for 47 years and many others who had been apart for more than 20 years were able to meet Saturday afternoon.

Alice (Johnson) Holmes of Crescent had a dream to bring her seven brothers and sisters together in one place.

“We’d never been together as a family ever,” Alice said. “My older sister left home when I was one.”

Then Alice’s youngest sister was born, she said. Since then, she lost one brother to cancer.

“It was always my dream that at some time in my life to be together,” a teary-eyed Alice said.

The Johnson family held a reunion Saturday afternoon at the Union Hall on Main Street. All eight of the remaining Johnson brothers and sisters were able to come together along with the widow of the ninth brother.

“It was supposed to have been a surprise,” Brenda Johnson, wife of Bob Johnson, of Sweet Home said. The youngest sister in the family spilled the beans though.

That didn’t limit Alice’s enthusiasm for the reunion. She was ecstatic about it.

Donna Livesay was sitting in Brenda’s house one afternoon and said something about pulling a reunion together for Alice.

“I said there’s the phone,” Brenda said.

Donna started making calls immediately and “this is what happens,” she said, gesturing around the hall where some 60 members of her family were visiting with each other. “Don’t ever give me a telephone.”

Juanita Draheim of Portland and Dick Johnson of Oklahoma had not seen each other for 47 years before Saturday morning.

They were separated as children, Juanita said. She was 13. He was 12.

After that, “they had their lives,” Juanita said. “I had my life.”

For many years, Juanita had no idea where any of her brothers or sisters were, but her youngest sister eventually tracked her down and made a connection. Most of the eight brothers and sisters are on the west coast, but one, Dick, was in Oklahoma. They never had the opportunity to meet.

Saturday morning, Juanita walked into Bob and Brenda’s home.

“I was sitting in the chair,” Dick said. “She said hi. I didn’t know who she was.”

Both were excited about the meeting.

“I think it’s great,” Juanita said.

“It’s good to see her,” Dick said.

“None of us are getting any younger, and I figured we’d better get it together while we still could,” Juanita said.

Dick thanked Bob, Brenda and Donna for helping him with travel arrangements so he could come to the reunion. He hadn’t seen Bob in 27 years.

Juanita hadn’t seen her oldest brother, from Alabama, in 25 or 26 years. She hadn’t seen others from her family for about that length of time either.

“It’s weird,” Juanita said. “You know you have family, but you can’t really connect.”

Individuals get stuck in a daily routine and time slips by, she said.

“I think it’s beautiful,” Alice said. “I was just wondering if it’d really come off after all. It’s the best thing anybody could have done for me.”

At the reunion were Selma Johnson of Newport, wife of the late Bill Johnson; Alice (Johnson) and her husband Dave Holmes of Crescent; Dorothy (Johnson) and her husband Daniel Montcalm of Benton City, Wash.; Doris (Johnson) and her husband Ambrose Sparhawk of Lebanon; Dick Johnson and his wife Charlotte of Oklahoma; Juanita Draheim of Portland; Donna (Johnson) and her husband Charles Livesay of Sweet Home; Bob Johnson and his wife Brenda of Sweet Home; and Chuck Johnson and his wife Marvelle of Alabama.