For Jerry Rodelander, the search had ended when he learned his real dad had died. But a May 14 phone call changed everything.
That's when a family in Jacksonville, Florida looking for a long-lost member of the Sadler family contacted him.
"They had been looking for me for 65 years," he says.
Jerry wasn't the only person seeking to fill a void. An entire family effort to find him was led by his late father, but he wouldn't find out until it was too late.
Since Jerry changed his name to Rodelander at the age of 12, no one could find him and his father died in 2011 before they could ever meet.
"He was in his room on his death bed and he had my picture in his hand and he was crying because he had never found me," Jerry explains.
But even after decades of searching, Jerry was okay with it. Because he got to learn all this from a new family that would take him in. And, he also learned that his father wasn't a scoundrel, but had been sent away in the military, never to see his son again despite searching and actually keeping Jerry a part of his and his new family's lives.
"As each one of them was born and their families got bigger, they all knew about me," he says."The whole family kept me alive and I never even knew that they existed."
They even celebrated all of Jerry's birthdays as if he was there with them all along, if only in their hearts. Three years after Jesse Sadler's death, the new family made a breakthrough in the search and finally made contact.
"I've lived 65 years as an only child. That's gone. That's over. Now I have a brother, two sisters and a whole family," Jerry says happily.
They've only spoken over the phone, making plans to meet in August. He's only known of them now for two months but yet it feels like a lifetime.
"God just poured 65 years of my father's unconditional love into my heart all at one time. It's indescribable," he says.
"And then when you find out all of a sudden that you had a dad that loved you and always wanted to know you, that's like having the sunshine come out," says Jerry's wife Jan.
When it's not just a loving father but an entire loving family, after having spent your whole life without them, those once missing pieces all just fall into place.
"1,2,3,4...5 of them. Just with my brother, two sisters, my brother's wife and my new mom," Jerry says.
"I'm a new person. I'm a complete person now."
And having spent 57 years as a Rodelander but not really belonging, he's got one more change to make.
"We're not going to be Rodelander's any more because I was born Gerald Lee Sadler," he says.
It's a new name he'll legally take to go with a new family he'll live with forever.
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