Bizarre brotherly tale has a Colorado Springs twist

By Stephanie Earls Updated: December 29, 2017 at 6:12 am • Published: December 27, 2017 0

Tom Gray grew up in Honolulu in the years after World War II, in a tight-knit island community that felt and operated much like extended family.

Perhaps that's why his wife is the one seemingly more over-the-moon about the recent family holiday update that's gotten a global embrace.

"It's amazing," said Lee Gray. "I was lucky to marry into this wonderful family, and now it's even bigger."

The Colorado Springs couple is at the heart of an inspiring story of coincidence and kismet that's gone viral this holiday season: Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson, two lifelong best friends in Hawaii, recently discovered they are in fact half-brothers.

And 79-year-old Tom Gray is big brother to both.

"There just can't be any question about it, when you see pictures of Walter and Alan together. They have sort of the same mannerisms," said Lee Gray. "It's just very, very cool."

But the twists and turns in this banyan of a family tree didn't start with the recent headlines.

The new genetic information has provided illuminating context to Lee and Tom's memories of their early romance, which played out at Honolulu's Punahou School over lunches at the school nurse's office, where Tom volunteered to work his junior year as part of a college scholarship deal.

Lee always figured the kindness the nurse, Mrs. Robinson, showed to Tom stemmed from deep social connections. The two families were neighbors and Mrs. Robinson's son, Alan, was best friends with Tom's Uncle Walter, who - in a quirk of chronology - was six years Tom's junior.

Soon after Tom and Lee married in 1959, the couple learned the truth. Walter was, in fact, not Tom's uncle but his younger half-brother.

"He's the handsome one. I'm the smart one," joked Tom.

Fast forward some six decades, to early October, when Tom and Lee got a call from Walter, who was trying to trace his roots.

"It all evolved because my brother was curious about who his father was," said Tom, a retired real estate broker and former Manitou Springs police chief who, for a time, ran Manitou's first bed and breakfast, Gray's Avenue Hotel, with his wife.

Tom's mom - who died in 2006 - was 19 when he was born, and he never knew his dad. As for Walter's paternal lineage, "all he had was a name," said Tom.

Walter's initial search on Ancestry.com turned up about 600 potential relatives. Among those was a half-brother he'd never known about.

"Walter was calling us back and forth, saying 'What do you remember? What was the timeline? Did you know another baby besides me?' We didn't," Lee said.

When genetic testing confirmed that Alan, his longtime pal, was, in fact, the man for whom Walter had been searching, the pieces locked into place.

"Mrs. Robinson was his adoptive mother, and now I look back and wonder: Did she know?" said Lee.

"She knew," said Tom.

The Grays weren't able to attend a "Welcome to the family" party at Walter's house in Hawaii last weekend. But they're looking forward to hosting future family gatherings with new members and old friends.

"We're very happy for Walter and Alan because finding out they're brothers just cements the way they've felt about each other for years. They've gone camping together, fishing together, and the kids have played together. They've had a lot of interaction over the years," Lee said. "Now we have this great big huge family, and Alan is thrilled because he never had any blood relatives. Now he has about 200."

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