Last August, Diane Marlatt sat with tears in her eyes at a Tim Horton’s restaurant in Victoria and met her brother Gary who had been lost from the family for more than 25 years.
Through an article that ran in the Saanich News, Diane learned that Gary Marlatt, then 64 and suffering from years of untreated mental illness, had come to be known as “Derry.”
The soft spoken man was a fixture around Greater Victoria Tim Hortons locations, the jumping off point for two anonymous Good Samaritans to help him connect with doctors, mental health agencies, and his family.
Diane, who travelled from her home in Welland, Ont., was pleased to have met with Gary’s care providers. She confirmed his identity and helped him secure long-term housing and social services.
Most comforting, though, was the knowledge that her younger brother, after years of living on the street, was alive.
Now almost exactly a year later, it happened again.
A second of Diane’s five siblings who had also been disconnected from the family for more than 40 years and living on the street, was located this week.
Although the details are changed, the core of story remains the same. An outreach worker in Toronto had come across the stories about Gary in the News and contacted Diane to confirm the identity of her other lost brother, Bob.
“I was delighted and mystified,” Diane said. “It was my summertime surprise.”
A day after Diane first spoke to Bob, now 63, since he left the house as a teen, she’s able to laugh about the experience.
“Bob’s always danced to his own drum – both boys did – but they were different drums,” she said.
One of the few details that Gary remembered from his past was that he had a brother named Robert – despite having had not seen the man in four decades.
Diane, who had searched for her brothers periodically over the years, attributes her brothers’ disconnection from the family to the lack of love and abuse they suffered at the hand of their father. It was a situation she felt unequipped to intervene in as a young girl.
Bob now has Diane’s telephone number and an invitation to meet her and the surviving members of the family. Unlike her trip last summer to meet Gary, she’s waiting for Bob, who doesn’t face the same mental health challenges as his brother, to reach out.
“I’ve had a good career, three sons and five wonderful grandkids,” Diane said. “Now it’s kind of nice to have things tucked into place. I’ve always had unfinished business with my brothers.”
Gary remains stably housed in Saanich and is happy and healthy, according to friends.
“Bob was always a fun-loving, happy guy and he seemed to be quite happy when I talked to him,” she added. “It’s been a gamut of emotion.”