OSTERBURG - Kevin Robertson was welding at Imler-based Corle Construction in April when a state trooper called his cellphone.
A tattooed biker who'd had a few brushes with the law, Robertson had little reason to expect a police officer's call to end well.
"I said, 'What's this in reference to? What did I do, or what did I forget to pay?'" Robertson said.
The trooper told him state police in Maine - Robertson's birthplace and home before he was adopted at age 3 - were looking for him. Robertson's mother was ill, the trooper said, and he was to call a Tammy Kennard in a town called Skowhegon.
That phone call, unbeknownst to Robertson, was the product of an intensive two-year search.
It would lead to a 550-mile, 38-year reunion with a brother he didn't know existed.
When Robertson called her, Tammy Kennard had been living for years with husband, Jerry, in Skowhegon, a town of less than 9,000 people hugging Maine's Kennebec River.
Jerry Kennard was born and raised in Skowhegon, aware that he shared a mother with two half siblings but never sure where they'd gone.
The family, he said, had separated in the mid-1970s. Jerry's father raised him; his half brother and half sister were adopted after their mother suffered a nervous breakdown.
"I remember ... very vaguely ... playing with kids in the yard," Jerry said. "I didn't even think then that it was my brother and sister."
There was no way to reach the siblings after their adoption. Their adoptive parents, the Robertsons, refused contact from the Kennards and never told their children about a half brother in Maine.
For decades, Jerry, who operates a roofing business in Skowhegon, didn't think there were any means to find his long-lost relatives.
That changed when his wife's grandmother, mother and sister, who'd also been separated through adoption, all died within three years of each other. When Jerry's mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, it was the final push they needed.
"I told Jerry, 'you need to find your brother and sister.' I feel so many regrets. I wish I'd gone to see my sister," Tammy said.
She launched a two-year search, poring over public records before consulting the genealogy website Ancestry.com at her local library. A series of disappointments, including the realization that she'd been looking for the wrong name, almost ended the 20,000-name search.
"She'd come home and say she thought she'd found them. Then she'd come in a day or two later and say it wasn't them," Jerry said.
"She just kept saying she'd never give up."
Finally, a search on Ancestry led to a number of Kevin Robertsons in Pennsylvania, including one in the Altoona area. Unsure how to reach him, Tammy called Altoona City Hall; by April she'd reached Pennsylvania state police, who found Robertson living in Osterburg.
When he called Tammy's number in Maine, Robertson said he had no idea who she was.
"I'm married to Jerry Kennard," she told him.
"I'm sorry, but I don't know who that is," Robertson replied.
Tammy tearfully explained that she was his sister-in-law, married to an older brother he'd forgotten decades ago.
"I didn't even know he existed," Robertson said, admitting that he's still shaking off the shock.
'He's got a mullet'
After processing the revelation for nearly two days, Robertson worked up the nerve to call his half brother in Maine.
It turned out they had a few traits in common - their voices sound curiously similar, save for Jerry's thick New England accent, and both even share a hairdo.
"I tease my husband. He's got a mullet, Kevin's got a mullet," Tammy said.
The newfound siblings - they share only one parent, but both call each other "my brother" - have kept in touch by text and call constantly since, with the Kennards planning to make their first 12-hour drive Saturday to Osterburg.
And the reunion has grown larger: Robertson's sister (and Jerry's half sister) Tracey, whom he hadn't seen for years despite their joint adoption, has moved from Oil City to Osterburg to be with her estranged brother.
More family found
The search, too, has expanded. Taking advantage of her newfound investigative skills, Tammy has launched a search for the massive family of one of Robertson's several adoptive siblings.
Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Jerry has already taken up a few of his younger relative's traits - including plans to buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle this fall.
"I can't have my little brother with a bike and not me," he said, laughing.
Both brothers admitted they're unsure what to expect when they meet Saturday evening. There's a great deal still to iron out, including when to tell their ailing birth mother the news.
"I'm a little nervous, but I'm excited all at the same time," Jerry Kennard said.
"It's been a long time coming."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.