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Tampa woman reunited with brother

Orbert Curtiss says he resigned himself years ago to the idea he'd never again see his younger sister Evelynn.

Curtiss was about 2 years old and his sister 6 weeks old when she was removed from their home in Grafton, W.Va., in 1919 to live with another family.

"I gave up hope a long time ago of ever hearing from her," Curtiss said. "I knew she would be getting up in years."

Recently, however, he answered his telephone to hear, "This is your sister."

On the other end of the line was Evelynn Harbeson, 79, of Tampa.

"I just about fell over," Curtiss said. "I looked for her for probably 40 years. It's pretty good to see her after all this time."

Mrs. Harbeson and her four daughters visited the Parkersburg area this week to meet Curtiss and other relatives she has just discovered.

"We liked each other right away," she said.

Curtiss' efforts to find his sister were hampered because of name changes she went through after being taken in by her new family. They also moved several times, she said.

"When I was growing up and would ask my foster mother about my family she would just say, "What you don't know won't hurt you,' " she said.

Mrs. Harbeson's search for her brother should have been easier, but she had difficulty obtaining records because she didn't have a birth certificate.

Their father, Patrick Curtiss, was a coal miner, Curtiss said. After their mother, Ada Weaver Curtiss, was put into a mental hospital, Patrick Curtiss found families to care for the five children.

Orbert Curtiss was taken in by another family for about a year at nearly the same time his sister was taken from home.

"When our mother got better, they got the oldest daughter and me back," Curtiss said. "But, the people who got Evelynn wouldn't give her back."

Fifteen presidents would serve before she would be reunited with her brother.

"The first thing he said to me was, 'You look a lot different 79 years later,"' Harbeson said Wednesday.

"Of course, I wasn't old enough to know how she looked back then," Curtiss added with a laugh."