TEXAS CITY — Trillis Vaughn sat in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Texas City Thursday and couldn’t keep her eyes off the sliding glass front door.
Vaughn, 80, knew her three younger half-brothers would walk in at any moment. She hadn’t seen them in 63 years.
“They were just little fellers then,” Vaughn said of the last time she saw her brothers in 1951. “They weren’t even in school then. Now they are all retired.”
When her brothers — Richard Daum, Larry Daum and Don Daum — walked in, the years of separation seemed to not matter at all.
Vaughn hugged them, and they started telling stories and laughing at shared memories.
“It doesn’t seem real,” Richard Daum, 67, said in talking about how the brothers finally found their older sister.
Richard and his brothers had been searching for years. The siblings were separated when he was 4.
Vaughn said she and her brothers shared the same mother but a different father. They lived in Gary, Ind., the last time they were all together.
Life changed dramatically for the siblings when they came home after spending a summer in Michigan with family, Vaughn said.
When they returned, Vaughn’s mother had divorced her husband. Her stepfather was gone, and her mother eventually had to move away to another city for a job. At 17, Vaughn was left to care for her three little brothers.
Vaughn said she thinks eventually a neighbor called the state. State workers decided the boys should go up for adoption. Vaughn was sent to live with family in California.
Vaughn said she just made one request of the state’s social workers.
“I just told them please, make sure they stay together,” Vaughn said. “Don’t separate them.”
The three boys were adopted together. For six decades, the trio were unable to find their sister.
For 41 years, Vaughn has lived in the Texas City-La Marque area not knowing where her younger siblings were. She tried to find her brothers but was unable to find out anything about them, she said.
Meanwhile, her brothers had been trying to find her but had been using the wrong last name.
They had at least one close call when Don Daum visited Galveston in 1980. Don Daum said he marveled that he must have been just 10 or 15 minutes away from his sister as he drove down Interstate 45 to the beach.
A reunion seemed out of the question.
“I figured it would never happen,” Don Daum said.
It wasn’t until May that Richard Daum stumbled upon Vaughn’s daughter, Caroline, on the online genealogy website Ancestry.com. Richard Daum said some of her information seemed to match up, and he emailed her.
“That’s how the whole thing started,” he said.
Later that night, Richard Daum got a call.
“I pick up the phone about 9:30 and I hear this lady’s voice and she says: ‘Is this Dickey? This is your sister, Trillis,” he said. “That was May 12.”
On Thursday, Vaughn sat in the breakfast room of the hotel and went through photo albums with her brothers.
Vaughn said she would be spending the weekend with her brothers and family in the long-awaited reunion.
“We are expecting quite a bash,” she said.