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Robin Huebner, Published August 06 2012

Robin Huebner Reports: Separated by adoptions for 80 years, Casselton man finds instant connection with long-lost brother

CASSELTON, N.D. - They were little children, just 2 and 4 years old, when the brothers last saw each other in 1932.

Separated by tragic circumstances and raised many miles apart, they never had the wherewithal or the means to make contact. But 80 years later they are together again, thanks to others who wanted more than anything for them to be reunited.

Family members were behind this reunion of a lifetime for Kenneth Corcoran, 82, of Casselton, and Edward Muir, 84, of Naples, Fla. And after a whirlwind of planning, family descended on Casselton over the weekend to see it all unfold.

It began last Friday when Edward flew in to meet Corcoran at Fargo’s Hector International Airport. Their shared sense of humor was apparent from the start.

Edward greeted his long-lost brother with, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Kenneth recalled Monday that, “Hell, I recognized him as soon as he came off (the plane). Well, 80 years ... I looked and said, ‘There he is.’”

“There was no breaking of the ice, anything,” says Kenneth’s daughter, Pam Gregerson, of the welcome and visiting that followed. “They haven’t known each other, they didn’t grow up together, and they’re the same.”

According to family, Kenneth and Edward were both born in Chicago to a woman who later died after giving birth to her fifth child in five years. Their father decided he couldn’t care for the five children on his own, so he left the three youngest at a Catholic orphanage and the two oldest at an affiliated Catholic academy.

Pam says the two oldest remained in Chicago, while the three youngest, including her father, ended up being raised by aunts and uncles in North Dakota. She began the quest of trying to locate her father’s siblings about 10 years ago. Since her father’s last name had been changed from Muir to Corcoran by the people who raised him, it made it much more difficult to track.

“Every time we found another piece of info, there was something there to stop us from going any further,” she said.

Then came the key piece, a little more than a month ago.

Pam was growing frustrated with her computer detective work, and her son Alex volunteered to step in.

“He said, ‘Mom, you need a break. Just go away and let me play with this.’ And within 15 minutes, he’s yelling ‘Mom, get in here, I think I found Edward.’ And he did!” she said.

Within minutes, Pam was on the phone to her long-lost uncle, and by the next day, family members had booked a flight for him to come visit. Close family members, including Kenneth’s six children and Edward’s three surviving children, all tried to clear their calendars for the reunion.

In the weeks prior to it, the families learned of the brothers’ many similarities.

Both served in the military – Kenneth in the Air Force, and Edward in the Army.

They have like interests, even the same favorite song, “Wabash Cannonball.” The old train song is a fitting choice for Kenneth, who was a lifelong railroad lineman. But Edward, who worked as an electrician all his life, loves it too.

“The Roy Acuff version especially,” he said.

There is one thing they differ on, and that’s politics.

“He’s a Democrat, and I’m a Republican. But we don’t like to talk about that here,” quipped Edward.

Turns out, they are the only surviving two of the five siblings. Still, in their 80s, they feel fortunate to have found each other, even if it is so late in their lives.

The brothers hope to see each other again, with Kenneth planning to travel to Edward’s home in Florida. The rest of the family is working on additional trips get to know their newfound cousins, aunts and uncles even more.

“I’m glad it all turned out the way it has, at least before we left this earth ... that I got to meet you, see you,” said Edward as he turned to Kenneth, who frequently wiped tears from his eyes.

“I’m kind of surprised,” says Pam of her father. “He’s usually pretty stoic.”

Speaking of him with tears in her own eyes, she said, “Eighty years. It’s a long time to wonder what happened to the rest of your family, and now he knows. I think he’s as happy as I’ve ever seen him.”