Long-lost brothers find each other, and their huge Yukon family
Chuck Dunlop of Calgary never knew about his brother Brian, or his sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins in Yukon
Chuck Dunlop was having some health issues, and he wanted to find his family's medical history.
He actually found quite a bit more — a full-blooded brother he never knew about, and his biological father's big extended family in Yukon, ready to welcome him into the fold.
"We couldn't afford to buy drinks for all of the family, because apparently we're related to about half the Yukon," he joked.
Dunlop, a car salesman in Calgary, knew he had been adopted as child. But he never sought out his birth mother until a couple of years ago, when his doctors asked for his medical history.
"That's where it all started, this whole journey," he said.
He had been adopted as an infant in B.C., and the provincial government there helped him track down his birth mother. From her, he got some unexpected and life-changing news.
"As a result of wanting to find out medical history, I found out I got a brother I didn't know about for about 50 years," Dunlop said.
'What an emotional day'
He immediately tracked down his older brother, Brian Crane, also a salesman and living in Boise, Idaho.
Crane recalls getting a letter by Fedex about a year ago, telling him a birth relative was looking to contact him, and asking whether he was OK with them getting in touch.
"To know that I had a full-blooded brother was just amazing. What an emotional day that was," Crane recalled. "I had no idea."
The brothers decided to meet up, so they each drove to meet at a midpoint in Montana. They spent a weekend together, hanging out, playing golf, and recognizing the incredible gift they'd been given.
"Meeting him that first day, it was amazing how much we had in common and how much we really were like brothers," Crane recalled. "He had so many of the same tendencies, and our salesmanship, our gift of gab, came out quite a bit that weekend."
Since then, the bond has only grown stronger.
"We've talked to each other almost every day since … texting, or talking."
"You've got to catch up for the 50 years that you haven't been together," Dunlop said.
The brothers also had more to learn — about their biological father. His name was Chuck Rear, and he had died years earlier, in Whitehorse.
Where, it turns out, he had another family.
'Chuck has two sons?'
Donna Hogan, at home in Whitehorse, got a call last April from an old friend of her late brother, Chuck. The friend had some news.
Chuck had a couple of sons, he told her, and they'd just been in touch with him.
"I was shocked at first. I was just like, 'Chuck has two sons?'" Hogan said.
Chuck Rear had spent his life in Yukon, and was well known by many. He'd been married and raised two daughters. He had friends all over the territory.
But nobody, it seems, ever knew about the woman with whom he'd fathered two sons.
Hogan was floored.
"I jumped up, started pacing, thinking, 'what am I going to do with this information?'" she recalls.
The friend who'd called her had a phone number for one of the men — Chuck Dunlop.
Anxious and excited, Donna immediately dialled.
"He picked up the phone and said, 'Chuck here,' my heart did a little flip-flop. I said, 'this is your Aunt Donna from the Yukon,' and we both started crying."
There were more tears when Donna called her niece, Cathy Rear.
"I've often said to people [that] I always wanted brothers," Rear recalled.
Suddenly, she had two.
"I burst out crying I felt so happy, and at the same time shocked," she recalled. "It still is a bit surreal."
A family resemblance
Hogan says she had mixed feelings about her brother Chuck's secret. At times, she's felt confused, angry and a bit sad for him.
More than anything, though, she's amazed and grateful for her long lost nephews. Why dwell on the history? The family could have a future together. The more the merrier.
Cathy Rear and her sister Brenda felt the same way. It wasn't long before they were on a plane to Calgary to meet their brother Chuck.
"When my sister and I actually first met Chuck, we couldn't stop staring at him because he reminded us so much of Dad," Rear said.
"We loved him very much, miss him all the time, and it really is a gift that Dad had these sons ... I can't ask for better brothers."
The family resemblance between the elder and younger Chucks (the shared name an odd coincidence, it turns out) was uncanny. Months earlier, and not long after Dunlop had learned who his biological father was, he was at work in Calgary when he overheard a couple of customers, down from Yukon, mention how much he looked like someone they used to know back home — Chuck Rear.
"Just goes to show how small the world is," Dunlop said.
Dunlop says he's now taken to watching reality TV shows like Yukon Gold or Gold Rush.
"I look for people I may be related to," he said.
The brothers have not yet been to Yukon, but they hope to visit soon, when Crane is well enough to travel.
Not long after he met his brother for the first time, Crane was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He's been off work for months and fighting the disease, and next month he's scheduled for surgery.
One thing that's helping him these days is knowing he's got "Team Crane" behind him, in Yukon.
His sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles are rallying to support him. They've organized fundraisers to help Crane and his family pay the bills. This past weekend, they raised more than $4,000 with a bazaar and rummage sale in Whitehorse.
"I can't even begin to tell you how I feel about that," Crane said. "When I saw what they were doing for me, I started crying."
"My wife and I have run through our life savings just in the last year with me battling this, so all the help coming out of the North is greatly appreciated, I can tell you that."
For Donna Hogan, it's simple — family is family. She wants Crane to know he's supported, and that his relatives will do what they can to help him eventually make the trip North.
"These boys have five aunts and two uncles still in the Yukon. They've got 25 first cousins," she said.
"We want to show him that the whole Yukon cares. We care about Chuck's boys, and we want them to come home."
Dunlop has also vowed to make it happen.
"As soon as Brian's better, I know we're going together," he said.
"The love and the support coming out of the Yukon, my family in the North, has just been overwhelming. They are just beautiful people."
With files from Sandi Coleman