CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — This is the new normal for siblings Lamar Hoke and Connie Stanley. Their loving relationship comes so naturally you’d never know they’ve been apart for more than half a century.
In fact, the last time they saw each other in person Zoom didn’t exist. Lamar was 4-years-old and Connie was 11.
“That’s what I remember the most,” said Lamar. “Sheltering me, protecting me, comforting me. She was like another mother. When my mother wasn’t there, Connie was there.”
When they were young children, they found their mother deceased. They were separated, sent to foster care and grew up apart.
They didn’t see each other for another 74 years.
“I used to put Connie in my prayers with my mother because, after a while, I didn’t think that I would find her,” said Lamar.
He spent the rest of his life looking for his beloved sister.
And she was looking for him, too.
“Back in the day we traveled a lot and I would look in phone books just looking for the name,” Connie recalls. “But then I thought, he was little, he was four. He may not even thought he’s got a sister. But I didn’t give up. I kept looking and looking.”
And then, more than seven decades later, a simple Google search by Connie’s daughter, Victoria turned up a Facebook picture of Lamar.
They had grown up just miles away from each other.
Victoria took it upon herself to send Lamar a message, but he didn’t see it until a year later.
“It came up and Vicki talked to him, and then she called me,” said Connie. “[Victoria] said, “Mom! I found your brother!’ I go, ‘girl, let me go to sleep. No, you didn’t.’ and she said, ‘Yes, I did. I found your brother.’”
Connie said she didn’t know what to think.
“I was more emotional than she was,” said Lamar. “I said, ‘I’ve been looking for you all my life,’ that was my first response.’”
Now, with so many years to catch up on, they talk every day.
“I would tell people I’m an only child,” said Connie. ”It kind of would leave an empty space, because I knew I had a brother somewhere. I was hoping I did, but consequently, I didn’t think I was going to ever see him, so that’s the way it was. And I missed him, but it was real hard when people would say, ‘I’m going to see my sister,’ or ‘I’m going to see my brother,’ because I didn’t have nobody of my own, and I always wanted somebody of my own. Now I got somebody of my own.”
At ages 78 and 86, it’s not too late.
Lamar now lives in Palm Springs, California and Connie lives outside of St. Louis.
When asked when they’ll be able to see each other in person amid the coronavirus pandemic, both were quick with a quip.
“Maybe a hazmat suit,” joked Lamar.
“I told you, I’d walk if I could, but I’m too old to walk,” replied Connie.
Both Connie and Lamar have sons living in Dallas, only miles away from each other.
Their parents said they have a lot in common.
While Connie and Lamar haven’t met in person yet, their sons are now friends and see each other often, likely a lifelong friendship the cousins will never let go of.