13
Nov
08

Finding the needle within the haystack

Let’s see if I can take a shot at explaining how my Uncle Luke found his brother’s roommate.

On Tuesday, in the Knoxville News, Sam Veneable wrote:

Then this summer, Henley was visiting his former pastor in Florida. A neighbor dropped by. Casual conversation eventually drifted back to World War II.
“When I mentioned the PBY (Cecil’s airplane), the guy said, ‘Why, that’s the kind of aircraft I flew!’ He hooked me up with a PBY veterans group, and I wrote an item for their newsletter, telling them I was looking for a needle in a haystack.”
And wouldn’t you know it: The needle got found.
On Aug. 9, Henley received a telephone call. It was from 87-year-old Bob Lee, a retired television producer from Long Island, N.Y.

There is more to the story.

The pastor’s neighbor my uncle met last summer was Roy Carthen.  And yes, Roy placed my uncle’s contact information on the PBY veterans group.  Before Uncle Luke spoke with Bob Lee, however, there were a few more phone calls in between.

The first phone call came from Richard Gregg.  Richard is a 95 year-old WW II vet, who got the ball rolling.  He read my uncle’s story on the PBY blog.  He did some research and found his brother’s roommate.  His name was Bob Lee, and he lived in New York.  Richard Gregg gave Uncle Luke Bob Lee’s phone number.
However, when my uncle called the number the person on the other end was not Bob Lee, but it was Bruce Boyd.  Neither did he live in New York, but in Arkansas.

And this is where the plot thickens.

My uncle apologized for bothering the man.  Before hanging up the phone, however, he gave a brief explanation as to why he made the contact.  Bruce Boyd, who was from Arkansas, was intrigued.  He asked my uncle to tell him the name again.  My uncle Luke told him the contact was Bob Lee.  Bruce thought for a minute, and then said, “Wait.  I’ve got a good friend from Houston, Texas, who flew PBYs in the war.  I have heard him mention the name Bob Lee.  His name is Chuck Nelson.  Let me give him a call.”

Hang on.  It gets better.

Bruce takes my uncle’s phone number.  In a few minutes Uncle Luke’s phone was ringing again.  This time it was not Bob Lee, but Chuck Nelson from Houston, Texas.

Okay, is anyone getting it yet?  This is a God-thing.

Chuck Nelson informed my uncle that he knew Bob Lee.  Chuck added that he and Bob Lee were best friends, and that they spoke to each other at least once a week.  He also informed my uncle that even though Bob was on vacation in Wisconsin with his daughter, he would contact Bob immediately.

A few more minutes later, Uncle Luke’s phone was ringing again.  This time it was not Roy Carthen from Florida or Richard Gregg from Wisconsin or Bruce Boyd from Arkansas or Chuck Nelson from Texas, but it was the real Bob Lee from New York.

Every time Uncle Luke repeats the story he tears up.  My eyes are teary-eyed again.  He tells me he felt like he was talking to his brother, 63 years later.

Not long after that, Uncle Luke and I were planning our trip to New York.  Wow, now that, too, is a great story.  And if I have time, I will tell that on Friday.

Perhaps now you can appreciate the “needle in the haystack” allegory.

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6 Responses to “Finding the needle within the haystack”


  1. 1 Searching
    November 13, 2008 at 9:15 am

    This is the stuff legends are made of…and really good movies!
    My tears ducts are in overdrive already, Ryan!
    Praise God!
    Thanks!

  2. 2 Lee
    November 13, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Amazing! Incredible! Awesome! Wow! No way! Seriously?! You’ve got to be joking?! What a coincidence! What are the odds?!. . . yada, yada, yada. Expressions can say a lot about one’s theology. The first few fit if speakers know what they mean: supernatural, an event outside of the parameters of natural means of orchestration. Jesus told the Pharisees a wicked generation needs a sign because they had seen so many and still did not believe. With eyes to see, there is so much wonder to behold as God is living and active all around us. He makes his presence known through testimonies like yours and even through events that have come to be accepted as natural, such as a sunrise, or a baby’s first cry. May we have eyes to see the beauty of his grand design, unfolded right in front of us every day, allowing us to experience the same rapture as from hearing your story, declaring again and again, “It’s God!” Soli Deo Gloria!

  3. 3 Judy Johnson
    November 13, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Ryan, Last night I looked up the info on Walter’s uncle, Eric Brown. He was a radio operator on a B-24 and was killed on Jan. 21, 1944. We were told his body was never recovered but after reading several letters from the war department it seems his body was recovered and buried there in India and was never brought back to the states. Evidently they had been flying the route from Tezpur, India to Cheng Kung, China when their plane went down.
    Your uncle’s story is amazing but then we have an amazing God so we shouldn’t be surprised but He continually amazes us.

  4. 4 Lee
    November 13, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks for the testimony, Judy. I’d like to see more from “my” prayer warrior! Your insights are informed by the time you spend on your knees, making them worth sharing. Grace and peace to you, sister. You are a blessing!

  5. November 13, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Judy, thanks for the info. Perhaps my uncle Charlie and Walter’s Uncle Eric knew each other. You never know.

    Tom Brokaw calls that generation the greatest generation. I would agree with one addendumn. That generation was great due to their parents. My grandparents were incredible people, who raised some great kids, one of them being my dear mother.

    Peace to you, Searching and Lee.

  6. 6 Lee
    November 13, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I don’t remember in which class in school, but I remember learning WWII created a major paradigm shift in America’s social values. Fathers went off to war, (many did not come back), mothers went to the factories, leaving “latchkey” kids to fend for themselves until moms could get home. The losses from all the wars in the 20th century played a major sociological role in the shift from the family values of your grandparent’s generation and those we see today. This, of course, is an academic observation, but a profound one that stuck with me. It is one worth noting when considering the important role God has given parents in raising children in the way they should go. And peace also with you, brother.


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