Jean Seaborn and her Polonia-based family treasured the last correspondence they received from Marie Kolesar - Jean's Aunt Marie. It was more than 60 years ago, the year was 1950, and the family was sent a postcard from Cuba.
Before that, the last time any family saw Aunt Marie and her family was in the summer of 1949 when Aunt Anne visited her and her children Bill and Ilona Cavasin, in the years that followed Aunt Anne would often wonder where they were.
Now, nearly 65 years later Wes Kolesar, found himself picking up his cousin, Bill Cavasin, from the airport.
This meeting began with finding a family tree online and came to fruition in an email from their cousin.
"There is indeed a William Cavasin out here who goes by the name of Bill," Bill Cavasin sent in his first correspondence, by email, to his cousin. "And there is an Ilona Marie who currently lives in the Chicago area. We are your long-lost cousins, son and daughter of your aunt Marie Elizabeth."
Amazing things happen when you consider the far reaches of the internet.
And amazing things did happen for Jean and her family.
Jean, her cousin Wes and other close family began searching for Bill around 15 years ago.
The search began the 'old-fashioned' way, searching through newspapers and phone books looking for connections and then eventually growing into online searches.
For over a decade the family looked unsuccessfully, but relentlessly, for their 'lost' relatives, until the first big break came.
"We found Bill's step-brother, Vince, online on a genealogy website on a Cavasin family tree two years ago", Jean remembers, Bill's mother and sister were also listed on the tree.
Vince was then sent an email which he promptly replied to and had forwarded the email to Bill, three days later a reply came from Bill.
"We were all really excited," Jean recollects. "Like the missing members of the family puzzle have been found."
For months after, the family exchanged emails with Bill, catching up on lost years.
The family discovered Bill resided in Los Angeles, California, about two miles from the ocean, not in the Windsor area, which was his last know place of residence.
He subscribes to eight to ten magazines and reads them all, not every article of course; his other passion is music, in particular rock and roll, with over 1,000 songs on 45s, about as many on LP records and a few more on CDs.
Bill enjoys watching older movies, documentaries and BBC series, with about 1,600 VHS movies packed into his garage and another 1,000 DVDs more readily accessible.
Bill has been employed with Boeing for the past 27 years, currently in the driver and vehicle administration department.
"It was really interesting getting to know him," Jean explained. In return, Jean and Wes shared their personal information, including photos and stories about his family in Canada, almost all of whom he didn't know even existed.
"To learn there were so many aunts and uncles is nothing short of amazing," Bill said in another email conversation.
A Kolesar history book with family stories was mailed to Bill, not long after receiving the book; he decided it was time to travel to his hometown community to meet the relatives he read about.
In mid-May, just over two years after the first correspondence, Bill walked in the door at Jean's house, greeted with a big hug.
"He was wearing a baseball cap, plaid shirt, denim jeans and wore glasses" Jean remembered vividly, with a grin on her face as she played the moment back in her mind, "The most amazing thing was, it was as though we had always known one another".
The evening was spent getting to know family members, enjoying a meal, studying old family photos, letters and memorabilia, sharing memories and making new ones.
It was one of those heartwarming, memorable moments not even the best of the 2,000-plus films Bill owned could capture.
While in Manitoba, Bill visited other family members and took a genuine interest in learning about the history of the area.
He traveled to Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Brandon, Arden, Eden area and Neepawa meeting with family, and even enjoyed an authentic Slovak meal - part of the family heritage - for the first time ever.
Bringing the whole experience full-circle for Bill was a trip to Polonia, the place of his grandparents first home; he visited the homestead, its church, and the community's cemetery where several family members are buried.
Bill left three days later, Thursday night, with much gratitude, hugs, and then tears followed, but he assured them he would soon return.
"It was overwhelming and emotional," Jean said. "It's very heartwarming, after searching for years to finally have Bill united with his family, I'm so glad we never stopped looking. He fit in with the family right away."
The family's Aunt Anne had passed away just months prior to their first contact with Bill. She was the driving force behind the search for Bill and his family.