Chapter 4
A Hidden Family Memeber---
Unexpectedly Revealed !

IN July of 1996 a hidden member of the family was revealed. My parents and I took a vacation to Washington DC. While there we visited the Vietnam War Memorial. My Mom had wanted to look up the soldier (Mitchell Lane) who's name is on the MIA (Missing In Action) bracelet that she wore during the war. After locating Mitchell Lane's name, my dad wanted to look up his last name, Million, to see if anyone by that name was listed. There was one Million listed who was from Kentucky. Then my dad suggested that we look up my Mom's last name, Toonkel. My Mom said that she was sure that there were no Toonkels listed as she had never known of any Toonkels who were in the war. But we did look it up and we were quite surprised to find the name of Benjamin Richard Toonkel listed.

We took a picture of his name on the wall. Later that day Grandma Toonkel and Aunt Luba and Uncle Katsumi met us in Washington DC. My Mom asked Grandma Toonkel if she knew who Benjamin was and she said no. When we got home from Washington DC, we checked our E-Mail and there was a letter from someone named Becky Toonkel. We had never heard of her. Becky was checking the America On Line directory to see if any Toonkels were listed and she came across my Mom's name, Maureen Toonkel. She wrote to my Mom to find out if they were related. My Mom wrote back to Becky giving her the details of our family and relatives. Mom told her about finding Benjamin's name on the Vietnam War Memorial and asked her if she know who he was. Becky wrote back and told us that we were definitely related. She had asked her 80 year old aunt about Benjamin and found out that Benjamin was my grandfather's son by a former wife. This was a total shock to Mom. She was quite surprised to learn that her father had a former wife and that Benjamin was her brother. She did not have a clue that her father had been married before. Mom called her Uncle Milty (her father's brother) and asked him. He told Mom that it was true. He also gave us another shock when he told Mom that her father had another former wife and a daughter.

We called Grandma Toonkel and spoke to her but at first she denied knowing that my Grandfather had been married before or had children. She has since admitted that she knew that Grandfather was married twice before and had two children. However she says that she did not know the wives' or children's names. She also said that she did not know that Benjamin died. She now will not talk about all this. With Becky's help we were able to locate Benjamin's mother, Flo Blank who lives in Bronx, NY not far from Grandma's house. Mom wrote to Flo and asked her if would be OK if we called her. Flo agreed and my Mom spoke with her for an hour. She was very nice and we learned a lot about Benjamin.

It turns out that Flo always called him Dick or Dickie. He was shot while on a patrol in Vietnam. We hope to be able to travel to New York soon and visit Flo.

However, it was quite shocking to find out about more family members that I never knew existed!

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