Lamar University Press Logo

Missing Link

Sisters find long-lost brother through

Leesa LeTulle, left, jokes around with her brother, Lance Freeman. The pair only recently found out the other  existed. LeTulle and her sister Brandi Burks, below right, met Freeman after he learned about them  through
Leesa LeTulle, left, jokes around with her brother, Lance Freeman. The pair only recently found out the other
existed. LeTulle and her sister Brandi Burks, below right, met Freeman after he learned about them

Imagine a Facebook message popping up one day from a long-lost family member. Now, imagine upon reading that message that you realize he or she lives within hours of you and has crossed your path several times. This is exactly what it felt like for two Port Neches sisters when they were contacted by someone claiming to be their half-brother four months ago.

“I got a message and it was somebody telling me he found out that he was my brother,” Brandi Burks said. “I kind of sat it there for a week and didn’t say much. I took a picture and sent it to my sister (Leesa LeTulle) and she made the phone call.”

LeTulle, the oldest sibling, said she immediately sent Lance Freeman a text message, but received no reply.

“I thought maybe he got cold feet,” she said. “It turned out I sent it to his home number and not his cellphone. Later, he reached back out to me and said, ‘I’m going to be in Beaumont, do you think you could meet me?’”

They made arrangements to meet at Floyd’s restaurant.

“It was kind of weird driving over there and thinking, ‘We are about to go meet someone who is probably our brother,’” LeTulle said.

She said that the sisters had been told by their mom, over time, that they might have a brother, but they knew nothing about him, not even his name.

Freeman, who is 52-years old with a wife and daughter, grew up in Groves and currently lives in League City, about two hours outside of Port Neches.

“It was more like, if one day, you ever need a kidney or something there’s someone out there,” LeTulle said.

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Burks said that their father, Dwayne Allen Jordan, died when they were both very young — Burks was 10-months old and LeTulle was four-years old, so it was up to their mom, Judy Smith, who had no relationship to the boy, to tell them the story of their brother.

“Our dad was not here to verify, to tell us or to not tell us,” she said. “My dad had this child before he married our mother and then he was no longer here. It was up to our mother to tell us about our brother, but she didn’t want us to go out and find him because she didn’t know what his life was like.

“He could have been settled. He could have been happy. You don’t just go and blow somebody’s life up and show up and say, ‘Hey, your dad’s not your dad and we’re your sisters.’ So, we knew that it was a possibility that we had a brother, but we didn’t go seek him out because we didn’t know what was going on in his life.”

LeTulle said she believes Freeman was withheld information by his mother and stepfather about his other family for his own protection.

“He was raised thinking that person was his dad, so why change after all these years?” she said. “Why mess everything up?”

LeTulle said they never had information about their lost sibling, so they couldn’t go looking for him — but what they never expected was for him to find them.

“We didn’t know anything about him,” she said. “We didn’t know his name or where he lived. We didn’t go looking for him because we didn’t know how to. But he did one day at work. They had some sort of thing going on at his job to try to see who had the most Native American in them, as a sort of joke.

“Well, he ended up finding that he had a whole other family he had no idea about. But had he not done it, we would never have known about him.”

LeTulle said the first time they all met everyone was a little on edge.

“I think that probably, for our first meeting, everyone was really apprehensive about whether we would like each other, whether we would want to see each other again,” she said. “But, that was quickly taken away. It was an easy first visit. The second was even easier, and now it’s like we just expect to see each other. It’s almost weird how not weird it is.”

Burks said she was a little apprehensive about meeting Freeman, but her sister was not.

“When you get this call about someone saying, ‘Hey, I’m your brother,’ you think, who is this person?” she said. “Do they want something from me? Do they need something? But, he didn’t need anything. At first, you are very apprehensive to pick up the phone, or make the call, because you don’t know who they are or what they want. But he is a grown man with children and a job, and he doesn’t need anything from us. He just wanted to know his family.”

LeTulle said that since she already knew that there was a possibility she had a brother, she was less apprehensive.

“As soon as (Burks) had told me he reached out I was ready to call,” she said. “I always wanted a brother, so it was just like, ‘Let’s go get it.’”

When the three siblings finally agreed to meet for the first time, LeTulle said it was very surreal.

“We scheduled to meet with him at this restaurant — him, his daughter and his wife, Rhonda,” she said. “We met with them, but the weirdest thing for me was that the whole meeting with him was unreal. It was very comfortable. It was almost like we had known this person forever.”

While it was easy banter between the sisters and their newly discovered brother, the first meeting was just about asking questions, LeTulle said.

“Strangely, our biological father did die when we were young and so we don’t know anything about him — we didn’t have any history. Our grandparents didn’t spend a lot of time with us, so we didn’t know a lot about them either. It was almost like he was searching for answers, but we didn’t have any. It was bad in a way, because we had no information to give him. We didn’t know much about our grandparents or our biological father, but it was also kind of a good thing, too, because now we get to make our own history.

“I think he was wanting those answers, but when we didn’t have them he realized he didn’t miss out on anything. We missed out on the same things he missed out on, so he wasn’t the only one.”

Burks and LeTulle both said that there was an immediate connection between siblings, and soon after their first meeting they became best friends, and brother and sisters, as if the threesome had never been split.

“When we walked out that day, his wife said, ‘I’d like for you all to meet maybe once a month, get to know each other and try to keep in contact,’” LeTulle said. “Since that day, we’ve probably seen each other like once a week.

“He is four years older than me. I went from being the oldest to the middle baby. It kind of stinks, but, it’s all good. It’s been strangely fantastic. Like nothing bad at all has come out of it.

“Sometimes when I look at him, it’s like I’m looking at myself but in a male version. We are very much alike, I think. Same facial features. A lot of our personality traits are similar. He actually looks more like our biological father than either of us. He has more of those features like the eye color and the facials.”

Burks said it was like finally finishing a puzzle.
Leesa LeTulle and her sister, Brandi Burks, finally completed a missing side of their family tree when they found their lost brother, Lance Freeman, through four months ago.
Leesa LeTulle and her sister, Brandi Burks, finally completed
a missing side of their family tree when they found their lost brother,
Lance Freeman, through four months ago.

“It’s kind of hard to explain,” she said. “It’s like God sent us something that we didn’t know we needed, and he is the only boy in our family. It’s like you didn’t know you needed him until you had him, and now that you have him you realize how much you need him. I know that’s weird to say, but it feels like a missing piece we didn’t know was missing.”

Burks and LeTulle said they have started to bring their two families together since they found each other.

“We’ve met some family from his other side,” LeTulle said. “We’ve met his sister. My daughter, Hannah, went to school with Lance’s son, Grant. She had taken pictures of him for the school paper and she had no idea he was her cousin.

“Our mother, who has no relations to him, is actually very close to him. They are really happy for one another. They enjoy some time together. When he comes down he stays with her, which is weird, but she is very accepting of it and he’s like a third child to her now.”

LeTulle said the whole experience has been a blessing and a gift — to know her brother and to be able to see and talk to him all the time.

“For me, its very weird how immediate it has all happened,” she said. “It’s only been four months and we have this immediate love for one another, for somebody that we just met. It’s weird to say, but we really do believe that.”

Burks said that she loves having Freeman around and it felt as if they had never been separated to begin with.

“It’s like there was a piece to the puzzle that we didn’t know was missing, but when he’s there it’s whole and no longer incomplete,” she said. “It’s like there was a link in the chain that we didn’t know was missing and now, if it was missing, we wouldn’t be the same and it would be a weaker chain.

“The strangest thing is that its something that you never had, and then you have it and it’s like a force that has come in fast and furious — if it was gone, it would probably kill us.”

Story package by Cassandra Jenkins
Category: UPbeat