Long lost father and daughter meet after 55 years

Long lost father and daughter meet after 55 years

Sally Rudd (second from left) meets her father, Yoshinori Shimabukuro (far left) for the first time in 55 years at a hotel in Okinawa City on April 4

April 5, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Fumiaki Jahana and Chota Takamine

On April 4, at a hotel in Okinawa City, Sally Rudd, 55, who lives in Brisbane, Australia met her father, Yoshinori Shimabukuro, 84, for the first time in 55 years. Rudd’s father, who is from Kumejima, Okinawa and now resides in Okinawa City, left Australia to return to Okinawa when Rudd was just six weeks old. Rudd had no memory of her father, but found him after searching for him on Facebook. When they met, she commented on the similarity of their eyebrows and other features, and they compared hands and gazed at each other, overjoyed to meet again.

Rudd smiled, saying she was worried her father might not want to meet her, but her fears were misplaced. Tears rose in Shimabukuro’s eyes as he said, “It was always on my mind. Being able to meet again, I feel like clouds have lifted.”

Shimabukuro is an Okinawan who went to Australia in 1957 to seek his fortune as a pearl diver. While he was there, he fell in love with Rudd’s mother, Elizabeth Lily Bourne. Just when Bourne had become pregnant with Rudd, the company that employed Shimabukuro went bankrupt. Shimabukuro requested continued employment, but his request was denied by the company, and unable to find other work in a land where he didn’t speak the language, he decided to go back to Okinawa. Shimabukuro said he wanted to go back to Australia right away, but Okinawa’s economy wasn’t doing well either, and he was never able to make it back.

Life was difficult, and Rudd was given up for adoption at six weeks of age. When she was in her twenties, her birth mother told her about her birth father for the first time. After that, she started her own family, and her desire to know more about her roots grew. After losing her eldest son last year, her desire to treasure familial ties grew stronger yet, and she decided to search for her birth father.

She got help from a Japanese friend in searching for her father. A Facebook post about her search for Shimabukuro was shared widely, and the two found each other through connections with friends and relatives.

After returning to Okinawa, Shimabukuro started a new family. “At that time, the situation was very harsh, and we had no choice but to give up. I always felt bad about it,” Shimabukuro said, expressing his regret. “Now we have the chance to meet again—I have no words.”

On the day of their meeting, Shimabukuro was accompanied by his second son, Hiroshi, age 45. Rudd was also joined by her two sons. “My father told me about them since I was young,” said Hiroshi. “Then, the times were what they were. I think my father cared deeply for his far-away family. It’s like a miracle that they can now meet again.”

Surrounded by her father, half-brother and two sons, Rudd smiled, saying she felt wonderful to see her father delighted by their meeting and to meet her Okinawan brother for the first time.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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