POCATELLO, Idaho — When Richard Shutes Sr. divorced his wife some 55 years ago, he left the family home in Miami, never to see his 4-year-old son again.
Through the decades, that son, also named Richard, occasionally attempted to find out more information about his father. He found little, other than his dad had died in a Veterans Affairs hospital in San Antonio, Texas, in 1985.
On a Saturday last July, Richard Shutes logged on for the first time to Ancestry.com, a genealogy Web site his wife had recommended from her family history research.
“I decided what the heck, I’ll put my father’s name in there,” Shutes said. “I put it in and it actually brought up some information on him.”
Oddly enough, the family tree compilation on the site was credited to a person named Richard Shutes. Puzzled and intrigued, Shutes fired off an e-mail to the compiler.
“I sent a message to this guy saying this is who I am, I’ve been looking for information on my father, he’s in the family tree that you’ve apparently put together. You know, what’s the deal here?” Shutes said.
Within a few hours, Richard received a reply from Richard. The back and forth went on, each asking the other questions. Richard of Indiana finally asked Richard of Idaho if his mother’s name was Carolyn. Southeast Idaho Richard told South Bend, Ind., Richard that it was.
“He knew that his father had been previously married to a woman named Carolyn and that they’d had a child. He’d been looking for years and had been unable to find anything,” Shutes said.
Over the next few days, the two e-mailed photos back and forth. A day or two later, they spoke on the phone for the first time. It was quite apparent they were half brothers Richard I had sired Richard II and Richard III.
“We don’t know why our father did this but he named both of his sons Richard. My middle initial is “L,” his middle initial is “M,” he said.
And they had more in common than the same name.
“He had had a similar experience. Our father divorced their mother and that was the last they ever saw of him as well,” he explained, noting that Richard III also has a sister named Cissy.
“As we talked over the phone, we discovered that we had very similar interests, we like the same things,” he said.
Both were buffs of computers, science fiction and roller coasters. And Notre Dame football.
Plans were made for Idaho Richard to meet Indiana Richard and his sister, Cissy of Mississippi, in October. The visit to South Bend fell through when Indiana Richard’s wife had to have some surgery.
Last month, Idaho Richard and his wife, Linda, hopped in their car and drove to South Bend. Cissy, unfortunately, developed a stomach bug the day she was supposed to fly out and couldn’t attend.
And so Richard II walked up the steps into the home of Richard III.
“I don’t know how to put it. We walked up the front steps and there we were. It was really obvious we were supposed to be brothers, together,” he said. “We hugged each other and it was just instant. There wasn’t any awkwardness or anything like that.”
Over the next week, the South Bend Shutes showed the Pocatello Shutes the sights, including Lake Michigan and Chicago.
“I had never been back in that part of the country, so we had a blast doing that,” Shutes said, “but a lot more, it was just being together, creating that family bond.”
For now, Shutes is simply enjoying the experience of no longer being an only child.
“It gives me a family attachment that I had always wanted and never had before,” he said.
And is there possibly a Richard IV out there?
“Not that we’ve ever been able to find out. We don’t think so, but until last summer, I never knew what happened to (my father) after he left my mother and me,” he said.
Shutes said that feelings of hurt, if any, by their father’s abandonment have long since subsided.
“Now it’s just the excitement of finding that we have each other,” he said.
Idaho Richard, 59, and Indiana Richard, 53, hope to soon get together with “baby sister” Cissy.
“We definitely have plans. We’re not quite sure when yet,” he said. “She can’t wait to go around and say, ’Hi, this is my brother Richard and this is my other brother Richard.”’