Twenty years ago, Winston Plyler found out he had a sister. Her name was Barbara and she lived somewhere in Texas.
Plyler took this little bit of information and in a search that spanned two decades, located his half-sister, Barbara Anne Miolen Saltsman, in Brownwood on August 10 this year.
"I'm looking for Barbara Anne Miolen."
"This is her."
"Barbara, this is your brother."
"This is Winston?"
Two months later they met in front of the Brownwood Manor Apartments for the first time ever.
"I can't describe it," Saltsman said. "I was excited. I was scared. But as soon as he stepped out of his car I suddenly felt calm."
Plyler said the meeting was a major high point in his life.
"My life will never be the same," Plyler said. "We now talk to each other at least once a day. This has changed both our lives."
Plyler's search has been a long one and began as one looking for his father. In the midst of that search he found out he had a sister.
Plyler was born in 1942 in Fayette, Ala. His mother was from a poor family but she could sing and so could her sister. Plyler said the Kelly sisters began traveling and singing together on various radio stations. In their travels, the Kelly sisters met the Milo twins, a fairly popular country group who appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and in three different movies. Plyler's mother married Edwin Miolen in 1941. By the time Winston was born, Edwin and his mother had separated and the child never knew his father.
"The Milo twins went on to achieve a pretty strong degree of popularity," Plyler said. "I grew up knowing my daddy was a 'popular singer' but I never knew my daddy."
In 1966 while working at the VA hospital in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Plyler met someone who knew the Milo twins. From that connection he found out the twins were from Dalton, Ga. Through several phone calls, Plyler found that his father had died and his uncle had moved back to Dalton.
A few years later, Saltsman came through Dalton looking for her father. She met her uncle instead. She said her new-found family said, "Did you know you had a brother?"
"That was all they told me," Saltsman said.
No one told her her brother lived in Alabama. No one gave her his address or phone number. No one called Plyler to let him know his sister had been there.
Three or four years later, Plyler said he was talking to his father's family in Georgia when someone offhandedly said, "Did you know you had a sister. I think her name is Barbara and I think she lives somewhere in Texas."
Thus began Plyler's 20-year search with severely limited information.
"Every way possible, I've been searching for her," Plyler said. "I searched every website, marriage records, birth records."
Then three months ago, Plyler's luck began to change. He entered an inquiry into a message board on Saturday night. Sunday afternoon after church he had received a message from someone who had an address and phone number of his sister. He called her that very day. A short while later, Plyler found himself in front of Brownwood Manor Apartments meeting his sister after 61 years.
"It was a glorious four days," Saltsman said. "It took him 20 years to find me."
With him, Plyler brought pictures of their father, the movies he had been in and CD's of his music.
"It's part of her life now," Plyler said.
Saltsman said she had seen her father in one movie before and had a general idea of who he was, but listening to his music, all she could do was cry.
"Now, Winston is my hold on him," Saltsman said. "When he left a part of me went to Alabama and I think he feels the same way."
Plyler said he's planning another trip to Brownwood in February and, despite the fact that this sibling reunion could have been shared 20 years ago had family members been more forthcoming with either of them, the brother and sister are making the most of the time they have now.