Ozarks Life Update: Sandi Schmitt’s reunion four decades in the making

Many have told Sandi this gives them hope of being reunited with loved ones
Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 8:54 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -Ask anyone at Lake of the Ozarks, and they’ll tell you the story of the one that got away.

Sandi Schmitt’s “one that got away” probably hurts more than any other.

“This was the family,” Sandi says looking over a small collection of photos.

Sandi has five pictures of a young, red-headed boy. For four decades these photos are all that she’s had of her baby brother Billy.

“He was my little brother and I raised him and I took care and beat up the kids down the street that made fun of him,” Sandi said.

“Billy, because he was a deaf-mute and he was born deaf, always went to the state schools.”

But as time went on, Billy aged out of those schools available in those days. Trying to find a niche in the world, he left.

“One day he took off,” Sandi said, “and we could never track him down.”

Sandi has had those photos longer than she’s shared time with her brother. She’s looked for him unsuccessfully, and never really brought it up to friends. But for some reason, one day in Warsaw, she did.

“We all go out to lunch after church,” Sandi said. “My friend Jane, we were just talking about siblings and I said my kids are all I got left because I can’t find my brother.”

Well, the laid back life of a retiree doesn’t seem to fit Jane Pierce. So she took on this mission immediately.

“When I was 18 I worked for a loan company,” Jane said. “I learned how to skip trace. I learned how to repo; I repoed a poodle.”

Jane says adult men are relatively easy to find. But then, Sandi broke the news that kept her from finding Billy.

“Mine and his last names were Golden, that’s our birth name,” Sandi said. “But when we lived with the aunt and uncle we took their last name which were Barton.”

“He was a deaf mute and so he had no social media, no email,” Jane said about her search.

“How long did it take, roughly,” Chad Plein asked.

“Maybe an hour,” Jane replied.

Jane found a William in Florida - but was it Sandi’s Billy?

“It was a group home, so that made sense,” Jane said.

The older sister called, and it went to voicemail.

“The next day I got a call on my cell phone at work,” Sandi said. “She said, ‘you left a message’ and I said yes. I thought she’d, ‘it’s the wrong person’ but she said, ‘bill’s here!”

Sandi started celebrating with her co-workers at Agri-Pulse.

“I can’t wait to see him, we have a lot of years to fill in.”

As for Jane, others are now asking her to find their relatives.

“I tried it for three other friends and it hasn’t worked for them since that,” Jane said.

“Jane didn’t realize she changed my life that day,” Sandi said.

In early April, Sandi and her family went to Florida to visit Billy for his birthday.

“I walked in and said, ‘I’d like to see Bill Golden’ and (the home’s staff) pointed over there, and said, ‘you mean cowboy?”

“Our eyes met,” Sandi said, “and he didn’t recognize me at first, then I pulled my mask down, and realized who I was and his eyes lit up and we grabbed and hugged.”

They spent time on the beach and held a birthday party for Bill at Sandi’s hotel. A brief visit to help fill-in a long absence.

“My favorite part was sitting on the beach,” Sandi said, “and he kept signing, I love you, I love you.”

“Don’t ever give up,” Sandi said. “You’ll never know when that innocent conversation will change your life.”

Click here to see other Ozarks Life stories from recent weeks.

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