Tampa man reunites with brother after 83 years of separation

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa man had a reunion more than 80 years in the making. Thanks to DNA testing, he found a brother he had been searching decades for.

Brothers Lonnie James Stokes and Bob Burris saw each other for the first time in 83 years.

Back in 1936, now 86-year-old Lonnie was just 3 years old living in Alachua County when his mother gave birth to Bob. Seven days later, she passed away.

Shortly after their mother died, their father decided to split the family up.

“Our father gave four of us boys, there was eight of us altogether, so he gave four of us to a couple in Reddick, Florida, who told us to call them aunt and uncle,” Lonnie said.

News Channel 8’s Rod Carter spoke to the brothers via Skype about their decades-long separation.

Lonnie said for years one of his sisters told him about his baby brother and they tried to find him, but his name and birthdate had been changed. The family’s original name was Lukosky, but after names were changed, it made it harder to find siblings.

“Nobody knew what his parent’s names (were) at the time, so that made it hard to search for him,” Lonnie said. 

Then, Lonnie’s daughter took an Ancestry.com DNA test, finding a family match in Bob.

Bob had taken a DNA test as well, but for a very different reason. He had no idea he was adopted.

“The only reason I ran the test, was to check nationality,” said Bob. “My mother’s maiden name was Kief. She had red hair and she was Irish and I’ve always considered myself Irish.”

This week Bob flew down from his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and met the family he never knew existed, which also included another surprise. He found out this new family was bi-racial.

“Every conversation ends with I love you. I don’t care if you’re black, purple or white,” said Bob. “I am in awe and it’s just a change for me.”

Now, the two are building a brotherly relationship eight decades in the making.

“The first thing I said was, ‘He’s my brother. He’s a little bigger and taller, but he’s my brother,’” Lonnie said.

Bob added, “This is the greatest guy in the world.”

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