At the end of part I of this story, on Oct. 20, 2010, Westfield Historian Marybelle Beigh and seeker of his father Robert Lincoln Todd's American family, David Sheath, had agreed to move forward slowly in attempting to contact Todd's only remaining living older sister. An unexpected and rather unusual, unorthodox opportunity presented itself on Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, at the Westfield Academy and Central School auditorium. During the intermission the musical "Pirates of Penzance" in which his daughter was performing, Mark Grohol, the son-in-law of the older sister, was spotted nearby.
Being friends and neighbors of the Grohol family and knowing Mark was also a lawyer, Beigh slipped into a seat next to him and whispered she had some information of a sensitive and discreet nature to share. The series of email contacts between Beigh, Sergides and Sheath was quickly summarized to Mark. He found the story quite fascinating and said he would share it with his wife, Sue, and get back to Beigh. At the end of the performance, they talk, and Mark suggested Beigh bring him copies of the emails the next morning so he could check on the validity, safety and other legal aspects. This was done, and after verifying the legal issues and conferring with their daughters, all the email exchanges were forwarded to them. They were all quite excited and happy, looking forward to connecting with Sheath, contacting other family members and eventually breaking the news to the older sister, which was probably the most difficult part of the entire process.
On Nov. 13 and again on Nov. 16, Sheath was emailed by the historian regarding the transfer of the emails and contact process to his American family. Also some photographs of the World War II memorial area of Westfield cemetery and Robert L. Todd's Memorial Cross were forwarded to Sheath. As things progressed, both Sheath and his American family kept in contact.
A Sheath family photo taken in February 2012 at their home in England. Standing are son-in-law Steve McEvoy, left, and David Sheath, right. Sitting on the back of the couch is 4-year-old Georgina McEvoy. Sitting on the couch, from left to right, are: wife Fabiana Sheath; daughter Suzanne McEvoy; 6-year-old Charlotte McEvoy; and daughter Nicola Bullock.
Sheath responded to the first email as follows, "Hello Marybelle, I have just opened up your e-mails. Thank you so much for all that you are doing. In my mother's letter to me she says that she met my father in 1943 whilst on holiday in the village of Clare in Suffolk near where he was stationed. He came to London on leave and stayed with my mum at Barrington Road, Hornsey, N. London where she was living with my grandmother. I was brought up by my nan in Hornsey as my mum had to go out to work. My mum also mentions that my father's grandparents emigrated to America from Scotland. She thought his home was in Ohio which seems to contradict what I know now. Has the family moved since the war? I will certainly look forward to hearing from the family if they are happy to do so. With every best wish David."
Regarding the photos of the Westfield cemetery World War II memorial, Sheath replied, "Thank you for the attachments. Remembrance Sunday 2 days ago meant so much more to me now that I know my father died a hero. David."
Soon after receiving Sheath's replies and forwarding them to Sue Grohol on Nov. 16, a short email was received from her, reading, "I am putting together the information in a more compact form that can be easily emailed to the Macer side of the family. Meanwhile, my brother Marty, as the oldest member on this side of the pond, is going to contact David so we aren't all inundating him with questions and information. We'll let you know how it develops."
The office of the Westfield Historian is located at 117 Union Street, in the small green building on the north side of driveway. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m., or by appointment. The Westfield Historian phone number is 326-2457, and the email mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
While having dinner at a local restaurant not long after this, Dick and Bonnie (Macer) Lancaster were also there, and Bonnie came over to share her excitement about the incredible connection with Sheath, and that they were using Skype to communicate more effectively.
On Dec. 31, 2010, David Sheath emailed, "Hello Marybelle. I hope you had a great Christmas. We certainly did and it was so exciting and unexpected to discover my father's family. I am in regular touch with them and they seem as thrilled as I am. I owe you a great debt of gratitude for all that you did for me. Many, many thanks and I will certainly look you up if I come over to the States as may well happen in the future. A very happy New Year to you and your mother. Best wishes David"
Beigh's reply on Jan. 6, 2011, read, "Hello David, Thanks, I had a wonderful family Christmas with my mother, brother and his family... But I think the best parts of this season have been the happy expressions and thanks from some of your newly discovered family members who are dear friends from my childhood here in Westfield... it seems that your reunion continues to expand into many parts of our small Village and Town of Westfield, and then well beyond as more of your family is contacted in other states and villages... So you are quite correct in that they seem as thrilled as you are - yes they are. I would find it also so special to meet you in person when you come to visit... I shared your email with Mother, and she and I both wish you a blessed and bountiful New Year 2011... Marybelle"
After that, the email exchanges ended between Sheath and the Westfield Historian, but often Bonnie Lancaster would share the latest developments between the reunited families. In early 2012, plans were being made for an actual reunion for the summer, when Sheath and his wife and daughters were to join with the extended family of Robert Todd here in Westfield.
Next week's column will be the story in the words of one of Sheath's American cousins, Marty Hiller.