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Brothers reunite after 66 years, thanks to Facebook
Courtesy of Martha Ellen, Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times
Phillip Bryant of Star Lake, N.Y., prepared for his trip to Washington to meet the brother he was separated from 66 years ago.
“We’re going to have a couple of buckets and mops. The tears are going to flow,” Bryant said.
Bryant, who was not raised by his biological parents, knew he had a brother, but did not know how to find him. Eventually, hints dropped by family members, searches of Internet websites and social media led him in October to William Pethtel, who lives in Federal Way.
“We connected through Facebook,” Bryant said. “Now we talk at least once a week.”
One of Bryant’s sons, William Bryant, who is stationed at Fort Lewis, arranged to take Pethtel to dinner at Mama Stortini’s in Puyallup as a surprise for Pethtel’s 69th birthday. Unbeknownst to Pethtel, Phillip Bryant and his wife, Patricia, were there.
At the restaurant, the brothers met for the first time. The get-together was a wish come true for Pethtel.
“I was afraid we’d both pass on in life and I’d never get to meet him,” he said. “It’s like a void’s been filled that I didn’t even know existed.”
Bryant was born in 1945 in Watertown, N.Y., son of Maude B. Jareo and William B. Bryant, who divorced in 1946.
“I was out of the picture three days after birth,” Bryant said.
His mother gave him to Dorothy and Harold Yates, a childless couple, whom she knew because she and Mrs. Yates worked near each other. She took his older brother to Idaho, where she married Raymond Pethtel.
Bryant termed what happened to his broken family as “the fortunes of war” and said he and his brother agreed it was not worth worrying about.
Bryant spent part of his childhood with the Yates family, but he described himself as incorrigible.
He had always wondered about his brother and learned a bit about him when his grandmother died in 1974. At that time, he met his mother’s two sisters, who filled him in. His mother also gave him an important clue. “I ended up calling my mother once and she said, ‘Don’t call your brother, Bill,’” Bryant said.
Armed with his brother’s first name, Bryant searched for him, but did not realize that his last name had been changed to Pethtel until his daughter found Pethtel using an Internet genealogy site.
Pethtel, who spent 33 years in the Navy, was not totally surprised to hear from Bryant on Facebook.
“He had a suspicion because our mother had made a slip,” Bryant said. “He thought I was a half brother.”
Federal Way Mirror editor Andy Hobbs contributed to this report.