If people wish hard enough, wishes can come true. It happened for a sister and brother.
Dorothy Lee, a 93-year-old resident of Hillside Park Retirement Residence in Elliot Lake, experienced a reunion this fall she didn’t think would happen.
Dorothy got to see her 87-year-old brother Pat Wilds for the first time in more than half a century, 52 years to be exact.
Pat is a resident of the Chartwell Kingsville Retirement Residence in Kingsville, south of Windsor, hundreds of kilometres from Elliot Lake.
The wish came true thanks to Wish of a Lifetime Canada, and their reunion took place at Hillside Park Retirement Residence.
Moments before the two got together on that big day, they were both anxious. When Pat saw his sister for the first time, all he could say was “Oh my gosh!”
“It’s so good to see you,” was Dorothy’s reply.
“You still got that smile,” Pat said.
“Did you ever change; you’re not getting any younger,” continued Dorothy.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
They then greeted each other with hugs and watery eyes.
With a bouquet of flowers in his hand, Pat presented them to his sister.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” gushed Dorothy.
They sat on the couch in the lounge at Hillside Park and within minutes their anxiety seemed to disappear as they began talking about growing up on the old family farm. The original homestead, where Dorothy, Pat and their siblings grew up was in Dashwood, located between Grand Bend and London, Ontario.
In their reminiscing, they spoke of when they were young with one memory being when Dorothy threw a broom at Pat for bothering her cat.
“I remember that as if it happened yesterday,” said Pat.
While talking to Pat, every now and then Dorothy would touch her brother’s arm, just to see if he was really there, she said.
The two were not alone for their grand reunion.
Dorothy was accompanied by family friend who became her caregiver, Dennis Sopha, while Pat was accompanied by his son Joe Wilds.
Dennis says before Dorothy’s husband Ron died in 2016 he asked him to take care of Dorothy.
“She’s now part of my family,” said Dennis. “Me and my girlfriend take care of her.”
Dennis adds that even at her age, Dorothy is still quite active. They take her to their cottage and she jumps into his side-by-side and enjoys the rides.
After about an hour with just the four of them, the other residents of Hillside Park Retirement Residence were invited to join them in the main lounge.
Why didn’t they see each other for 52 years?
Dorothy’s husband was in the military, and was transferred to various locations around the world. As a result, the opportunity to have family get-togethers didn’t present itself.
A few years after Pat and his wife Anne were married they moved to Leamington, and the family eventually settled in Kingsville. Pat left the farming life behind and became an electrician.
Over those many years, they each go busy raising their own families, had jobs “and we just drifted apart, like families do,” explained Dorothy.
“And then we kind of lost touch,” added Pat.
Joe says the last time his father and his aunt saw each other was in Canada’a centennial year, 1967.
Pat and his wife Anne were pulling into his sister Kay and her husband Jack’s driveway not far from their parents homestead for a visit as Dorothy and Ron were pulling out.
Pat and Dorothy never dreamed that their next meeting would take more than half a century.
Pat learned where his sister was
Pat learned where Dorothy was living a couple of years ago, when he and his son Joe attended the funeral of one of Pat and Dorothy’s sisters.
There he met one of Dorothy’s daughters, and learned his long-lost sister was living in a retirement residence in Elliot Lake.
Like many retired seniors, Dorothy and Ron moved to Elliot Lake in their retirement. The couple arrived here 19 years ago.
“And it kind of snowballed from there,” Joe said.
He added that his father and aunt started conversing on the telephone, but they are both hard of hearing so using the phone was not really an option.
So, they went ‘old school’ and began conversing with hand-written letters for the past year and a half.
Wish can from Wish of a Lifetime Canada
The seeds of the reunion started quite innocently. Pat was part of the java club at the Chartwell Kingsville Retirement Residence, where the residents sit, have coffee and discuss events in their lives.
One day, Pat just happened to mentioned that he had a sister he had not seen in about 50 years.
The activity coordinator at the Chartwell residence, Connie Bolsover, heard the discussion and wanted to get the two of them together.
Joe said Connie made a preliminary inquiry about how to get them together.
“She’s a special person,” said Joe.
Pat was only aware that Connie had made an application months earlier, but had not heard anymore and didn’t think about it.
However, Connie and Chartwell had been working with Wish of a Lifetime Canada to make the reunion dream happen. It took nine months to get the final approval, Joe said.
When Wish of a Lifetime called Chartwell to say the wish was approved, the staff and family wanted to surprise Pat.
Pat said that day the residents of the residence were called into the staff room under the premise of taking a group picture.
There Pat was told that Wish of a Lifetime granted his wish and he would finally see his sister.
“It floored him,” Joe said.
When word got out in the community that the reunion was approved, Pat became a local celebrity and was interviewed by the local media a number of times.
Pat is beyond grateful for the wish being granted.
Of having his wish come true, Pat said, “It’s fantastic. It’s super great that this happened.”
Dorothy said, “I’m really proud to be sitting beside him.”
Later in the day, after the crowd of well-wisher dwindled down, Pat described his feeling of seeing his sister again like an “Explosion.”
“I guess you could call it that,” expressed Dorothy. “It’s kind of hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been in this situation.”
“This is one of the greatest opportunities that I ever had,” said Pat, of learning he was going to see his sister again.
He thanked Joe for all the work he did to make it happen. Dorothy also praised Dennis for the work he has done.
The following day, Joe, Pat and Dorothy drove around Elliot Lake looking at the sights, such as the Fire Tower Lookout and where Dorothy sometimes went canoeing over the years.
They only spent a few days together, but they both said they didn’t want their newly revived brother-sister relationship to end with just this one visit.
While this visit was brief, Dorothy said, “It will be remembered until we close our eyes.”
Pat describe this reunion as, “It’s like meeting again for the first time.”
And Dorothy agreed.
They are also grateful for the time they have.
Pat added “That guy upstairs, he’s helped a lot.”
“You mean the Holy One?” asked Dorothy.
“That’s right,” Pat replied.
While Pat was hoping to have a reunion with all his remaining siblings, “it just didn’t pan out,” says Joe.
Pat and Dorothy want to see each other again.
Joe said they are hoping that Dorothy could make the journey to the London and Kingsville areas.
“I’m sure they’ll get together again,” says Joe, adding that Dorothy and Dennis were talking about going to visit Pat.
Dennis says he expects that he and Dorothy will go see Pat in the summer.
Pat said he hopes other people can have such a wish granted to them as well.
“It’s just super great,” said Pat.
“It’s a great foundation,” Joe agreed.
On the final day of their reunion, they spent time together, and then it was time for the Dorothy and Pat to say their goodbyes. Joe and Pat then drove to Sudbury to catch their flight back to Windsor, and then take a 30-minute drive back home to Kingsville.
Wish of a Lifetime covered the cost of Pat and his son Joe flights from Windsor to Sudbury and back, provided them with a rental car, and covered their accommodations at the Hampton Inn.
For more information on Wish of a Lifetime Canada, write to:
Wish of a Lifetime Canada
2-435 Horner Ave.
Wish of a Lifetime International Headquarters
110 16th St., Suite 406
Denver, CO 80202 USA