ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – It’s a story you need to see to believe.
One woman spending over 30 years of her life trying to find the loved ones of a close family friend. Another woman spending countless years trying to find more answers about who she first believed was her cousin.
18 News sitting down with Marcia Bixby and Sheryl Foley to hear how the two found one another through their love for a local hero.
“These are the stories that need to be told”, says Dennis Wolfe Sr., Director of the Vietnam War Museum Chapter 803.
Marcia Bixby has spent years searching for answers about a brother that she didn’t even know she had.
“It wasn’t until I got his adoption papers that I knew that he was my brother, but I started searching right after I buried him in 1968 for answers… it’s awful all the time I lost” says Bixby.
Thomas Bixby, a Millport resident was a decorated war hero, killed in action in 1968.
Sheryl Foley, a family friend and neighbor to Thomas Bixby said, “He wasn’t wounded once you know… he was wounded multiple times. Yet, went back out into battle and finally met, you know his demise”.
Foley’s family were close friends of Thomas’s adopted father Mel.
In reference to Mel, Foley says , “Through time my family, you know, took care of him when he was sick and passed away, and then had to go through all of his possessions to clean them out”.
“Eventually as everyone grew older and passed away. I ended up with Tom’s belongings, 30 years I’ve had his items” said Foley.
For the past 30 years, Sheryl Foley has been on a mission to find Tom’s family.
“Anytime I saw anyone named Bixby or I would just randomly go through a phonebook and if I found the name Bixby I would call them and ask if they knew a Mel, or Thomas Bixby… it was always the same answer… No” says Foley.
Marcia Bixby says, “I’ve been coming over to the museum for years talking to Dennis, I brought over the only picture I had of Tommy. Dennis said he was going to put it up on the wall”.
Then a week ago, something MIRACULOUS happened.
“I got the phone call a week ago and I get this text from Dennis saying, “Marcia, call me… It’s important”.
Foley using the power of social media had reached out to her friends to see if there was a local museum that she could donate Thomas’s belongings to and was put in touch with Dennis Wolfe Sr. at the Vietnam War Museum Chapter 803 in Elmira.
Foley wanted to donate the personal belongings because she had spent years trying to locate family and was unable, and wanted Thomas’s belongings to be with his brothers at arms.
After answering the phone to her surprise Wolfe telling Foley that Bixby did in fact have family, a sister who had spent years trying to find those same belongings.
Wolfe Sr. saying “I’m looking at Thomas’s photo, we had a conversation about the gentleman I’m looking at on the wall and I said “”I know he’s got a sister, I know he does””.
On that day, Sheryl and Marcia brought Tommy’s relics to be reunited with his brothers in arms. While also reconnecting two women that never knew their paths had already crossed.
There’s a photo taken by the Star Gazette of them handing the flag to Uncle Mel, says Bixby.
“I didn’t know the woman standing next to me until Sheryl and I met and we looked at the picture and Cheryl says, I’m that little eight-year-old setting in the front row.
Bixby responding and I’m the one behind him.