Long-lost siblings reunite after social media

Published 4:06 am Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It was a heartwarming sight for the casual observer, but even more so for the participants when two long-lost brothers got together this week in Bogalusa.

Their parents, Ethel and Gilbert Merkle had nine children together. But Ethel got an earlier start at parenthood because she was raped at 14, and there is no account of who was the birth father of her son, James.

Gilbert had another six children after Ethel died at the age of 33 in 1967. He died later at 57.

An orphanage, foster homes and adoptions dispersed the siblings, but now, thanks in large part to social media they are managing to find one another from California to Florida, and from Oregon to Louisiana to Kentucky, across the country.

Charles “Chuck” Adams, of Bogalusa, provided a list of his siblings and half-siblings. Those that were adopted bear their adoptive family names.

“We all grew up in Chicago until we were older,” he said. “Gil, Rusty, me and Donnie were put in an orphanage in 1957. Gil was 7, Rusty was 6, I was 4, and Donnie was 3.”

There was James Manske who was adopted and is now deceased, Helen Merkle who died as a newborn, Gilbert and Rusty Merkle who were fostered, Wanda and Chuck Adams who were adopted by the same family, Donnie Reed who was adopted, and Debbie, Mike and Bill Schrieber, who were also adopted by the same family.

Half-siblings include Doit Wells and Penny Wade, whose locations remain unknown; Dawn, who died as a newborn; Leslie Merkle, who stayed in California with her father; and two unknowns.

Now that there is social media, it has helped the siblings to connect with one another.

“Once they got on Facebook it was like dominoes,” said Chuck’s wife and longtime fellow truck driver, Ruby Adams. “It kept going and they got connected.”

Now Adams is in contact with three of his siblings. Rusty, who just drove from Arizona to meet his brother in Bogalusa, is in contact with six. The two plan a road trip to Kentucky soon to meet with two brothers and a sister. And Gilbert Jr. now plans to fly in from Arizona to meet his brother, Chuck, on Monday.

Rusty was philosophical about the family situation.

“It was puzzling to folks back then,” he said. “But it’s awesome to be reunited with family after so many years.”

“I’m glad to finally have my own family,” Chuck said, with a brother sitting beside him.