Long Lost Uncle

A vague memory of a little stranger, a name and hope. That’s all you know about your brother. Over 40 years later and you pick up the phone. That same stranger answers, all grown up.
“My name’s Michelle Magee Mcquillan…and I believe you are my brother.”
Forty-three years ago, Wando mom and real-estate agent Michelle Magee McQuillan lost contact with her little brother, Wes. With nothing more than a name and a few photos, she left her hometown of Alabama with no knowledge of his whereabouts.
After years of wondering, she began her search for her brother eight years ago — 40 years after he disappeared from her life.
“My parents divorced when I was very young and my dad remarried. He and his new wife had my brother, Wes. Very shortly after Wes was born, they divorced,” Mrs. McQuillan said. “Things were very difficult for my dad. He was very short on money and with a fourth kid, paying for child support, I think that was a real burden on him. Wes’ mom saw how difficult it was, with my two brothers and I, being raised with battling parents, so she just said I’ll take care of Wes, I’ll take care of anything, but just give me total control of Wes. So he did and I never saw him, he was gone. That was when he was a baby.”
Years after McQuillan had grown up, she began questioning her dad once again about his own knowledge of Wes.
“I always wondered about him through the years and asked my dad about him and for a long time when I was little, my dad couldn’t even talk about, he never brought it up,” Mrs. McQuillan said. “If we brought it up, he tried to shut us down. As the years went on, I would ask my dad, do you ever think about Wes? And he would say sometimes. But I think it’s really difficult for him because I think he regretted his decision.
“As time went on I would ask every few years, do you ever think about Wes? Do you ever think about looking him up? No, not really,” she continued. “And finally one time a couple of years ago I asked and he said well, I just figured you would do that. So that was sort of my permission slip to look him up.”
With the permission of her father, McQuillan got to work on tracking down her half-brother. Little did she know that conversation was the beginning of an eight-year search riddled with dead ends.
“I tried to find him and I couldn’t find him. I tried looking on Facebook, I was trying to find county records in Oklahoma. With the little information I had, I just couldn’t find him. Then last May, I was with some girlfriends in Myrtle Beach for an annual Diva 5K and this mom…Amy Johnson is a paralegal. She works for a law firm and she does all this research, she works on cases,” McQuillan said. “Every year we go to Myrtle Beach and we’re like tell us any interesting cases you’re working on because she has these phenomenal stories..she would tell us about these amazing cases and we’d be like how in the world do you find this information? She said she just needs a little nugget and can take off with it. So I said ok, how about this? Help me find my half-brother.”
According to Mcquillan, it is because of Johnson that she knows her brother.
“I told her all the information I had, which wasn’t very much, but I did remember a few details. I remembered my my step-mother’s maiden name, I remembered that her parents had a farm in Oklahoma and where that was and I remembered about the time he was born. When his mom got remarried her husband adopted him and I didn’t know the father’s name and so I didn’t have that name to go by. I didn’t know his last name was Reyer,” she continued. “So when she got back home, it didn’t take her very long, she found him. She found Wes and she found my stepmother, Susan. She found him for me.”
After years of searching, Michelle McQuillan could finally contact her brother. Her times of wondering were over, now the answers to her questions were only a phone call away.
“I called him up and I was really nervous because I didn’t know if he even knew anything about us, me and my two brothers, because he was a baby when my dad and his mom broke up. But I called him at his shop where he restores old saddles. So I called him and I asked for him. I said my name’s Michelle Mcquillan and then I said well, actually, my name’s Michelle Magee Mcquillan, I don’t know if that name Magee means anything to you. He said yes, it does… I said oh, ok well my father is George Barry Magee and he married Susan Darby and so I believe you are my brother and he said yes and I said oh, do you know about us? He said yes. So we started talking and we had this phenomenal conversation. We talked for probably an hour and a half and the next day we had talked a long time again. I talked to him a couple of times over the course of a couple days and then I told my older brother about it and my dad and so now we’re all in contact.”
McQuillan’s son, junior Courtland, said the calls have been the beginning of a new relationship between Wes and the McQuillans.
“My mom was just like, ‘hey I’m Michelle and I’m your sister.’ It was just one of those weird moments. My mom has been searching for about six or seven years now, she never told me she was, she just has been,” Courtland said. “When she first found him she started talking to him a lot on the phone and it’s only now that he’s been able to come over. My mom talks to him all the time now, he’s really just been brought into the family.”
After the initial call, McQuillan discovered a lot about Wes Reyer. A cowboy in Wyoming with a 234-acre ranch, Reyer discovered who her brother truly is beyond his baby pictures.
“It went really well, he was so open. He’s a really kind guy, and it went really well. My older brother was the next person to talk to him, and my brother said, I talked to him for an hour and three minutes, and that’s a big thing because my brother does not talk on the phone at all. They also got along really well. He’s just a very nice guy and very easy to talk to,” she explained. “It hasn’t been as easy for my dad and him, they haven’t quite gotten there yet. They have talked just twice, we’re hoping that you’ll connect some more but they haven’t gotten there yet.”
Nearly a year after McQuillan and Reyer’s first conversation, they finally had the chance to meet in person on March 30.
“My brother Mark came from Mobile and he drove up to get Wes. Wes is in the army still and he’s training in Fort Benning right now so my brother went to pick him up. They came up here on Easter Friday and they were here until Sunday. So that was my first time meeting him and it was fantastic,” she said.
After decades of only knowing a name without a face, Magee finally had the chance to meet her brother. Out of everything she learned about Reyer, she said one peculiar thing first stood out.
“It was surreal because he looks like my dad more than any of us. My parents had us three, Mark, me and my little brother Michael and we all sort of look alike, but Wes looks exactly like my dad,” McQuillan explained. “So, it was very strange to look at his face and go, you have my father’s eyes exactly. He also has all these similar mannerisms. The way he holds his hands, the way he sits down, the way he walks, his gait, I mean it’s so much like my dad, even though he didn’t grow up with his dad. It was really odd.”
Courtland said that meeting his uncle was a strange experience.
“I didn’t know what to think of him, I didn’t ever think about what it’d be like. It was really surreal and weird. We were all just nervous,” Courtland said. “It was just a surreal feeling meeting your long lost uncle, some random guy you’ve never even met before all of the sudden is a part of your family by blood. With new cousins and a new aunt, a whole new family.”
With much to catch up on, Reyer and the McQuillans rarely left the house, instead choosing to spend their days talking and getting to know each other.
“We just sat around the breakfast table and just talked, we got to know each other. He’s a little shy,” Michelle McQuillan said. “My older brother Mark and I are not shy at all and so we kind of carried the conversation for him. But he got used to it and then…we just talked. Wes sort of got into our personalities and he loosened up and he became animated himself and it was good. It was really good.”
After three days of long talks and laughter, Reyer left on Easter Sunday to return to his training. Although McQuillan said she was initially nervous for the visit, she said it was an amazing moment.
“It was just happiness, it was just really happy. Finally after all this time, my whole life wondering about him. He was such a sweetie, so nice. I didn’t know if he’d be resentful. I think he probably does have resentment towards my dad… He hasn’t met him yet but he is open to meeting him. He’s just a really nice guy and I was so happy to see that, I wasn’t sure if he’d have a lot of resentment, if he’d want nothing to do with us, or even if he knew about us. So I was happy that he did and happy that he was open to meeting us.”
Although the first visit is over, McQuillan said that there is many more to come.
“We’re gonna try to see each other again. I’m gonna try and get out to Wyoming, I’ve never been there. I wanna visit him there and I’d like to meet his wife, Cricket. I’d like to meet Cricket. And I’d like to meet my nephew and niece who I’ve never met. So yeah, we’ve got a lot of new family that we didn’t know were out there.”
From her memories of Wes as a baby to the rancher she knows today- McQuillan has finally been able to add a new adult face to the name of her baby brother.
“I was eight when he was born and I remember him in the crib. I remember playing with him, him holding my hand, putting his little hand around my index finger. I had two pictures of him, one of him sitting on a little stool and one of him with Santa Klaus and I always carried them with me, I still have them today. Even when I was little I used to look at them. And I always thought one day I’ll find him,” McQuillan said. “So it was just fantastic [to meet him], it was something I had always wanted. I didn’t know how it would go, I didn’t know how receptive he would be, or even if he was a nice guy. But he could not be nicer and he’s just a good guy. He’s a Patriot of our country and I’m very proud of him.”