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(courtesy of 'Theresa")

Grave marker for Robert J. Gass in Section 12, Site 7303 of the Calverton National Cemetery, Calverton (Suffolk county), New York.

Robert enlisted in the at New York City, NY on 28 October 1942 and was assigned to Company E, 508th PIR.

Pvt Gass was seriously wounded in action on 3 July 1944 and evacuated to a field hospital.  On 10 October 1944 he was transferred to an unnamed hospital.*

He returned to the U.S. on 27 August 1945 and was discharged as a Corporal at Ft. Dix, NJ on 28 April 1946.

Cpl Gass' military decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge and the Bronze Service Arrowhead device awarded for participation in Normandy assault.

* That hospital was at the Bideford Army Air Force Base in England. While there Robert met a nurse named Lola Vowles.  But that fact, and their son, would not emerge for nearly 70 years.

Siblings for 68 years, two men meet for the first time after being brought together, in part, by Naples museum's website. [Naples Daily News, Friday, August 21, 2015, Page 1, by Hannah Marcus]

Brotherly Love
Steven Gass, left, and Leon Tetherton catch up Tuesday at a Fort Myers beach condo.  The long-lost brothers met for the first time this week after Tetherton tracked down Gass using the internet.

The two brothers are different. 
   They are both wearing blue shirts and khaki pants as they sit on the screened in balcony on a balmy Fort Myers beach, but that's where the similarities end.
   Steven Gass keeps his salt-and-pepper hair medium-short, he smiles sheepishly after he makes jokes he knows are funny (and he makes plenty), waiting graciously for his peers to laugh first before he chuckles along.  His words fall out of his mouth with hints of a New York accent, muddied a little by a move to Las Vegas a years ago.
   Leon Tetherton is two years older.  His silver hair is parted to the side, and he wears it long.  His English accent is quiet, almost dominated by his tone --- a low, whispery growl that comes out only after he places his left hand over the scarf covering a hole in his throat.
   They talk with ease, a comfort that usually comes from years of learning the quirks and workings of another human being.
   Maybe they should be comfortable with each other.
   They're brothers, after all, in their late 60's and early 70s, ages where life's patterns are set and personality traits have settled in.
   Then again, it has been only 10 days since they met.

 - - -

   It was Christmas Eve when Steven Gass received a letter in New York.
   He and his wife, Lois, only recently moved back to the state from Las Vegas, and Leon's letter came as a surprise to both.
   It didn't spell out specifically that they were brothers, but Tetherton wrote that he was contacting Gass for personal reasons.
    When Gass emailed Tetherton on Christmas day he already knew what the letter meant.
   "I said to (Lois), I must have a brother in England, why else would I be getting this letter?"
   But Tetherton was hesitant,  More than anything, he was cautious about saying the word "brother" out loud or typing it when he emailed back and forth with Gass.
   "I was 99 percent sure he was it, but I didn't know how he was going to receive it," Tetherton said.
   He was prepared to offer proof --- his years of research to prove that unbeknownst to Steven and the father that they share --- Robert J Gass, who died in 1987 --- they'd been brothers for 68 years.
   "I didn't even need to see the proof," Gass laughed, "I was with open arms --- I couldn't stop thinking about his journey, and finally getting to this point after all these years, and I wanted to do anything I could to help."

 The fact that they found each other this late in their lives is an amazing feat, they agree, but not as amazing as how it all unraveled, or the way Tetheron's search collided so carefully and perfectly with Steven Gass' hunt for a place to lay his father's belongings to rest.
   "It was dedication," Tetherton whispered, hand to his throat, twinkle in his eyes, "combined with incredible luck."

- - -

Robert J. Gass was in his 20s and a highly trained paratrooper when he took part in D-Day, June 5, 1944.
   He survived the initial invasion but saw only a month of combat after being wounded by shrapnel in an explosion that killed a friend who was directly in front o
f him. He was sent to the USAAF Base in Bideford, England, to recover.
   It was there that he met Lola.
   She was an English nurse aiding him during his recovery, and to her, his injuries were just another reminder how traumatic the war was.  She had brothers in the war.  Her house had already been bombed and dest
   "It was different then," Tetherton said, noting there was death everywhere, and you clung to people.
   "You don't know if you are going to live, and you're brought together by that circums
tance and then separated."
   But Robert Gass recovered, and the U.S. government needed him. He was reassigned and shipped away, he never spoke with Lola Diane Vowles again,  He never knew she was pregnant,  He never knew she had a son who was adopted shortly after his birth.
   "My father's relationship with my birth mother goes back to love," Tetherton said.  "That's a thing you rarely find in the hours of war."

   Steven Gass had been carrying his father's belongings around for decades.
   He grew up as his father's only child, sitting in a New York living room with a man who occasionally shifted in his chair, scratching at the shrapnel still in his leg.
   After his father's death in 1987, all the things that accumulate during a person's life had fallen into Steven's care --- war memorabilia included.
   "I wanted my father's things," he stopped and quickly corrected himself, "I say 'my', and not 'our father' because at that point he was just my father."
   He continued: "I wanted my father's things to be put someplace he would be remembered."
   He donated old photos of his father to a website honoring paratroopers*.  Old black and white photos of Robert are on the site: him crouching in his uniform, or standing next to an unknown soldier.  "Courtesy of Steven Gass accompanies each photo.
   Then in 2014, Steven Gass stumbled upon the Naples Airport Museum of Military Memorabilia.
   In donating his father's things to keep his father's memory alive, Steven never knew he was planting clues, leaving a virtual breadcrumb for Tetherton to find.

*[note: it was the 508th PIR site that Steven donated the photos to.]

  "Planting the seeds," Tetherton said, "without knowing that I'd be looking to pick them up."

 - - -

   Tetherton knew from a young age that he had been adopted, but England has strict laws about adoption, making the details a mystery.
   He had a good life, a good upbringing, wonderful adoptive parents who loved him, he said.
   "As good as your adoptive parents are, you always know there is another side of you." Tetherton said.
   When he started his search in 2008, the laws still were stiff surrounding what he was allowed to know.  But with research, and a little luck, he found his biological mother's family in 2009.  She had died just two years earlier, but Tetherton found he had two English half-brothers.
   One of them gave him a picture of his Mom.
   About five years ago, adoption laws in England changed, and Tetherton found access to more information.  From scrawling on an old sheet of adoption paperwork, he was able to piece together the name of his birth father, his father's age and that he had been a paratrooper in World War II.
   Tetherton ran with it.
      He trolled websites for years, coming up empty until one night he stumbled upon the Naples Airport Museum's website with the donated photos.
   Instead of looking for Robert Gass, he needed to find Steven.
   Endless searches and a few mouse clicks later, he'd found a Steven Gass with a New York address.  It was risky but he had to start somewhere.

 - - -

   When the brothers found out about each other, they stayed in touch.
   First, they emailed, sending photos of wives, partners and children.  But eventually, that shifted into a once-a-week Skype relationship.
   "We were comfortable right away," Steven Gass said.  "It's just the way we are."
    "It's in our genes," Tetherton added.
   They corresponded for months and planned to meet in Naples for a Sunday ceremony honoring World War II paratroopers at the airport's museum --- the very same museum where their father's belongings are on display.
   During the planning, Steven sent over a photo his father kept from the war, another black-and-white copy.  Instead of posing with a soldier, Robert Gass stood in uniform next to a woman, curly-haired and smiling wide.
   Steven Gass never knew who it was, just that it was from England, 1944.
   But when Tetherton and his partner Liz Mackay lined it up next to the photo his English half-brother had given him of his birth mother, they knew it was her.
   This photograph we already had and the one next to it had existed for 70 years, thousands of miles apart," Mackay said.  "And here they are, finally, and they're lying next to each other on our kitchen table."

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