Julia O'Malley: Many happy postscripts from a year of columns

Julia O'Malley

I checked in with some of the people I wrote about in 2012 to see where they ended up. The first was Bill Popp, whose family I wrote about a few weeks ago.

In case you missed that pair of columns, Popp found a sister he didn't know he had after a random Google search revealed a secret his mother had been keeping for 50 years. At the end of that story, he and his long lost sister, Brandy, discovered that their biological father had another child, their half-brother. When the column went to print, they had not tracked down that brother.

But it didn't take long for that to change. A column reader decided to find the missing brother. (Unfortunately, she did this without talking to Popp first.) The reader uncovered the brother's phone number and called, also without consulting the Popps, and contacted the brother's family.

Bill Popp got a phone call pretty much out of the blue from a man who said he was his half-brother, Patrick.

When I talked to Bill recently, he had had only a few short conversations with Patrick. Patrick is a truck driver based in Texas. The most interesting thing Bill learned: Patrick is adopted. So Bill and Brandy's biological father had nothing to do with them growing up but went on to become an adoptive parent. Patrick also said his father had gone on to be a better man than the one described in my column, Bill said. Patrick said he never saw any alcohol issues with his father.

The next person I checked with was Melissa McGraw, a 20-year-old woman living with her husband and young daughter in a substandard fifth-wheel trailer in Houston. People from McGraw's school, Burchell High, were organizing to build her family a small cabin. This week McGraw told me that they are still living in the trailer but they are making progress on the cabin.

People donated more than $11,000 to her fundraising website for the project and many more donated supplies. Carpenters, plumbers and electricians offered their services. The cabin has a roof up. It has wiring and plumbing. They are waiting on the installation of a Toyo stove so the Sheetrock will dry after it gets mudded and taped, she said.

Her daughter, Brooklyn, had to get foot surgery and is still in a cast but McGraw's sister came to visit for Christmas, which was their "biggest joy," Melissa said. She hopes they might be able to move into the cabin before the end of January.

"I'm so happy, I can't wait to get in there," she said.

Work is also progressing in the Butte on a cabin for Cory and Israel Hale. I wrote about Israel after he lost his legs in a traffic accident over the summer. He would have died if not for some good Samaritans who stopped and put tourniquets on his legs. He was building a house at the time. His boss, Dennis Byler, took over the building after the accident. Israel's brother, David Hale, said builders are getting ready to put up Sheetrock. Israel and Cory are living in Palmer. Israel will soon be fitted for prosthetic legs, David said.

"His spirits are still up; he's doing really well," David said.

The ending was not so happy for Terry Stahlman, who offered to give his fading under-21, alcohol-free strip club to anyone whose tip led police to the person who killed barista Samantha Koenig last March. In April, the club was shut down after undercover police officers were able to buy alcohol there. Police later seized some drugs as well. Stahlman said at the time that he was in the process of selling the club. He didn't answer his cellphone when I called last week.

In other news, the October kidney transplant between donor Judie Wolfe and recipient Terri Teas went as planned, Wolfe and Teas told me last week. Teas is still getting used to some of the medicines but her new kidney is working great. She doesn't have the energy to go to the gym with Wolfe yet but the two of them were headed out to dinner Thursday night and planned to see "STOMP."

Finally, Mitik, one of the baby walruses I visited at the Seward Sealife Center in October, had a wild ride after he arrived in Brooklyn. About two weeks after his FedEx plane landed, Hurricane Sandy hit the New York Aquarium, his new home.

The aquarium was flooded and badly damaged in the storm but most of the animals, except 150 unfortunate koi, survived. Mitik was in a holding area when the surge hit. It was flooded with seawater. He didn't mind. Aquarium director Jon Forrest Dohlin waded in to check on him once the flooding began, according to a story in The New York Times.

"There's Mitik swimming around in the surge and vocalizing like 'Hey, this is great,' " he said.


Julia O'Malley writes a regular column. Read her blog at adn.com/jomalley, find her on Facebook or get her Twitter updates at www.twitter.com/adn_jomalley.



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