Illness brings siblings closer Reunion: Pasadena man who has cancer thought his brother had been dead for 20 years, but friends and strangers found him.

November 03, 1995|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Frank Langevin, who has cancer, thought he would die alone.

But thanks to the help of friends and strangers, the 71-year-old Pasadena resident will be reunited next Friday with a brother he thought had died more than 20 years ago.

"I'm very excited because I can't believe he's alive," Frank Langevin said. "It's unbelievable."

"I've got my plane tickets," Bill Langevin, 74, said gleefully in a telephone interview from his home in Ocala, Fla. "I can't wait to get there."

The reunion was made possible by Debbie Cavanaugh, a home care social worker for North Arundel Hospital, and Maureen Cavaiola, founder of Partners in Care, a volunteer service organization that aids disabled people living in their homes.

Mr. Langevin was referred to Mrs. Cavanaugh after he was diagnosed in December 1992 with prostate cancer. It was she who launched the search for relatives and her office that referred Langevin to Mrs. Cavaiola's group when he no longer could care for himself.

Mrs. Cavaiola raised the money to pay for airline tickets for Bill Langevin and his wife, Betty, to see Frank Langevin.

"We don't do this normally," said Mrs. Cavaiola, who sought donations from her staff of 200 volunteers and dipped into the organization's budget to pay for the $408.40 round-trip tickets from Florida. "But this was an exceptional case."

Because of the cancer, Frank Langevin's feet have swollen to the point that he cannot wear shoes. His legs have grown so weak that he needs a walker to move a few feet. Without the morphine patches he wears, the pain would be unbearable, he said.

And Frank Langevin thought he had no family on whom to rely. His wife died long ago, and his two sons rarely call.

His brothers and sisters bickered over the care of his mother, going their separate ways after her death in 1984. He hadn't seen Bill in 20 years.

Frank Langevin said he had resigned himself to living out his life alone until Mrs. Cavanaugh began the search for siblings. She called the first six names on a list complied from a book in Frank Langevin's belongings and came to dead-ends. On the seventh call she hit pay dirt.

"I asked him, 'Do you have a brother by the name of Frank?' Mrs. Cavanaugh recalled. "He said, 'I did, but he's dead.' I said, 'No, he's not.' "

"I cried," said Bill Langevin. "When I got that call, I was so surprised to find out that he was still living. I was all torn up."

Frank Langevin said he was "all shook up" when Mrs. Cavanaugh told him his brother was alive.

"It's like seeing something unbelievable," Frank Langevin said. "I thought he was dead. I was 100 percent wrong."

The brothers said they were close as children. Bill Langevin said his brother was so tough that he didn't cry when Bill hit Frank in the stomach with a 2-by-4.

Frank Langevin said his brother was called "Skinny" and was mercilessly teased by the bigger boys. Frank said he protected his little brother and supported him even when Bill dyed his hair green and played drums for a rock band.

But as they grew up, they also grew apart. Neither remembers the last time they talked, but they intend to remedy that.

"What we ought to do is sit down and talk," Frank Langevin said. "We used to do that."

"First of all, I'm going to hug him," Bill Langevin said. "Then we talk, and then I'm going to have my wife take a picture of us so that we can have a memory of this."

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