Siblings finally meet after a lifetime’s search

2011-03-16 00:00

A 40-YEAR search came to an end on Thursday when a Warner Beach man met his sister for the first time as she stepped off a plane from the United States at King Shaka International Airport.

Andrew Ilderton fell ill with a heart condition shortly before his 21st birthday.

His mother, who thought he was going to die, told him that his father had been married before and that he had a half-sister, though she was unaware of where she was living.

When he recovered, Ilderton embarked on a quest to find his half-sister, Mavis Knight, whose parents had served in the British Army in India in the 1940s.

Ilderton, now aged 60, spent the next 20 years looking through British military records, but without success.

After his mother’s death in 2001, he found his mother’s marriage certificate and pictures, which helped him with his search.

He was able to trace his father’s first wife (Knight’s mother) and found that she had died and was buried in Alabama, U.S.

After posting a request on a website called www.findagrave.com, he located the grave of Jessie Alice Ilderton.

An amateur genealogist and full-time teacher, Monica Allen, did some research of her own and sent Jessica Alice Ilderton’s obituary to Ilderton.

The South Coaster then learnt that his sister’s name was Mavis Knight and that she lived in Tennessee.

Not long after that Ilderton was able to track down Knight’s cellphone number and phoned her. He told her he was her brother.

Knight says that she thought at first that someone was trying to steal her identity.

After several Skype conversations and exchanges of photographs, however, she began to believe that Ilderton was telling the truth.

She arrived in Amanzimtoti to visit her new-found brother with her husband, son, her daughter-in-law and her three grandchildren in tow.

“This is nerve-wracking,” said Ilderton while waiting for passengers to disembark from the flight that had just landed at King Shaka Airport.

“Today is my sister’s 68th birthday, her 46th wedding anniversary and the first time she and I will touch each other.”

Ilderton and Knight’s father would have turned 100 on 10 April, and one of the first things the siblings planned after her arrival is to visit their father’s and grandfather’s graves in Stellawood Cemetery.

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