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Family Finds Long Lost Brother, But Only After He Dies

February 17, 1994

DENVER (AP) _ Members of the Padilla family searched for years for the brother they hadn’t seen since 1951. They finally located him - just a 40-minute drive away - after news stories about his death.

″We thought he’d been dead for the last seven years,″ Fritz Padilla said. ″For us to find him now, it just overwhelmed us so much. We cried our hearts out because the missing piece of the puzzle was in place.″

Padilla’s older brother Arthur, afflicted with cerebral palsy and institutionalized when he was 7 years old, died last week of pneumonia.

He achieved brief fame last June when he married his longtime sweetheart, Jeannie Johnson, who also had cerebral palsy.

But their brief marriage ended in tragedy. Jeannie died in September from injuries she sustained when a car struck her wheelchair. She was on her way to visit her husband in the hospital.

Friends quoted in news accounts blamed Arthur’s death five months later on a broken heart.

Fritz Padilla, one of 10 children, was 2 years old when Arthur was sent away to the state home for mentally retarded children.

″We were living in a garage at the time,″ Padilla said. ″We were so poor, our mother had to make a decision.″

He said he doesn’t remember seeing Arthur except in photographs. He longed to meet the brother he never knew.

″I remember going to a phone booth, calling all of these different institutions,″ he said. ″I was calling all sorts of places from the Yellow Pages. I couldn’t get a hold of nobody.″

After learning of Arthur’s death, Fritz and his siblings gathered in Greeley, and watched a videotape of their brother’s wedding.

″We just cried. Everybody cried,″ Fritz said. ″Here he was living in Greeley, just a 40-minute trip away, and we never knew it.″

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