PLYMOUTH - When Geri Chikosky was 13, her father told her: “sit down, I want to tell you something. I was married once before. Her name was Julie. You have a brother, his name is Robert.”
On Tuesday, now 74 and known by her married name Geri Bentley, she got to meet her half-brother Bob Chikosky for the first time.
Back when her father confided his secret years ago, “I had no idea what to think,” she said. “I was always close to my Dad but I don’t think my mother was very happy that he told me. They were Catholic and divorce just wasn’t talked about.”
Bentley grew up in suburban Detroit with her parents and her sister Karen, without ever hearing anything more about her father’s previous life. She got married, moved to Texas, and started her own family. Her husband was interested in genealogy but was never able to find anything about her late father Michael or the Chikosky family line.
When her son, Ron Archey was grown he would do his own searches online but never found anything. “Our grandfather always said he from ‘Pennsyltucky.’ We never knew where he was from,” he said.
Then one day Archey came upon an old divorce notice for Michael and Juliette Chikosky that had been published in an Oklahoma newspaper.
He searched for Juliette Chikosky and found her in a 1940 census, which showed she had moved back to her parents’ home in Connecticut with her son, Robert Chikosky, 5. He started making cold calls to everyone he could find named Robert Chikosky in the Northeast, without finding the right one.
Finally, he came upon an online essay by an ESPN Radio broadcaster called Jay Walker, a pseudonym for Louisiana resident John Moon. Moon wrote a Veterans Day tribute to his late father, a U.S. Navy veteran who married a divorcee named Juliette Chikosky, who had a young son.
Archey called the radio station to talk to Moon and the connection was made.
Moon called his half-brother, Bob Chikosky, in Connecticut to explain the situation and asked if it was OK to give Archey his phone number. “I said, yes, definitely, and within 25 minutes I was talking to my sister and Ron,” Chikosky said.
Chikosky, 83, has no memories of his father. His parents separated when he was a baby. His mother remarried and he grew up with his half-siblings. As an adult he spent some time in the Army, and worked as a mechanic at Pratt & Whitney. He has been married to his wife Gail for 42 years now and they raised their own family in Terryville.
He had no idea what happened to his father, until a month and a half ago when he got the call from Archey - the nephew he never knew he had.
“When Ron called I was elated,” Chikosky said. “I had another relative! It was good news!”
Bentley, her son, and her daughter, Susan Sampson, quickly planned to take a trip to Connecticut. They flew in early Tuesday morning and spent the day getting to know the new branch of their family.
One of the first things Bentley noticed when she met Chikosky was that, by odd coincidence, they were wearing almost identical Argyle sweaters. However, the most obvious thing was that her long-lost brother looks, and sounds, just like her father.
“It’s weird,” she said. “He is just like my Dad. My Dad always had funny things to say. He was always kidding around, changing words around, and that’s exactly what Bob does.”
“It’s just one of those things,” Chikosky joked. “You could call it deflatable, I mean debatable.”
“See? That’s what my Dad did all the time!” Bentley said. “Exactly, it’s like grandpa’s back!” Archey and Sampson agreed.
Bentley also recalled that her father was very handy and organized. “He could fix anything, and he was always working on something,” she said.
Chikosky admitted he’s pretty handy too. He spent some of his career at Pratt & Whitney taking jet engines apart and putting them back together again. He enjoys working on cars and doing needlepoint. He recently put together a model castle from 5,800 Nanoblocks.
The two siblings have been enjoying getting to know each other. It’s a feel good story in the news for a change, Bentley said.
“It’s some ‘ha ha’s’ instead of ‘boo hoo’s,’” her brother agreed.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.