Family turns to social media, finds brother after 60 years of searching

Family turns to social media, finds brother after 60 years of searching
Published: May. 11, 2015 at 9:53 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2015 at 11:08 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - After decades of searching, two sisters have been reunited with their brother because of one photo that went viral on Facebook.

Sixty years ago, the family was living in North Charleston when the children were split up.

The family is now building a new relationship with their little brother, who isn't so little anymore.

"The first time I hugged him, I said 'the last time I saw you, I was hugging you. Now, I'm hugging you again'," said Linda McCloskey.

This weekend, sisters Linda McCloskey and Betty Jean Musselman traveled to West Palm Beach, Florida, to be reunited with their baby brother, Robert Barwick.

"It was just magnificent, he's such a wonderful man," said McCloskey.

McCloskey says she was was ten years old when the state of South Carolina split up the children, because their parents couldn't care for them.

McCloskey remembers her brother, who they then called Bobby, as a sweet boy with blond, curly hair.

The sisters left North Charleston, and were sent to live with family members.

"Bobby - I was told - was sent to a school for the blind and the deaf, that's as much as I knew," said McCloskey.

McCloskey says she felt guilt and despair growing up, not knowing what happened to her brother. He never left her mind and she often spoke of "Bobby" to her husband and children.

"Her quest became my quest," said Amy Sciotti, Linda McCloskey's daughter.

Sciotti, who has a family of her own now, says she grew up hearing about an uncle she'd never met.

"There are literally thousands of Robert Barwicks in the South," said Sciotti. "Trust me, I know - because I've been knocking on all their doors for 27 years."

After a failed mission to find Barwick in Holly Hill, Sciotti decided to take matters into her own hands.

She made a poster, with as much information as she knew about her uncle.

Sciotti asked her mother and aunt to stand in front of it and snapped a picture.

Then, she posted it on her Facebook page.

"It went like wildfire after that," said Sciotti. "In three days, there were 250,000 shares."

It caught the attention of many, including forensic historian, Michael Jeffcoat.

Jeffcoat lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He says he stumbled across the Facebook post one evening at home.

"I just had a sense that there could be a resolution," said Jeffcoat.

The family says, with help from private investigator Jill Ward, Jeffcoat tracked Robert Barwick down in three days.

Jeffcoat contacted the West Palm Beach Police Office. Officer James Louis offered to share the news to Robert. They exchanged messages by writing on a notepad.

The family says that according to Officer Louis, Barwick was in shock and had no idea he had family looking for him all these years.

"I texted the only known baby photograph of Bobby to the officer so he could hold it up on his phone," said Jeffcoat. "Even Bobby recognized himself, even though he'd never seen a photograph of himself at that age."

"He is the spitting image of his mother, there's no doubt that he's family," said Sciotti.

"I look at it and think it's a team effort. It's jointly what they did and what other did before me and I just kinda came up at the tail end and saw thing that maybe others didn't see," said Jeffcoat.

McCloskey and Sciotti believe they finally found Barwick, because they never gave up hope.

During their visit to West Palm Beach over the weekend, Barwick's two grown children, who sign, helped him communicate with his long lost sisters and niece.

They exchanged pictures, laughed, hugged and went to the beach - as they start to make up for lost time.

"He said 'Well we really have a bond, we've just started this bond' and I said 'No, Robert. I've had this bond for 60 years, you have just begun to have the bond' and he started crying," said McCloskey.

McCloskey and her family plan to have Barwick up to Pennsylvania, where they live, for Christmas. They say Barwick is very grateful for what he has, he lives modestly.

Social media has brought them together, so now they're trying to use it again to help him.

His sisters have set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to buy him a new home.

They plan to have Barwick visit them in Pennsylvania for Christmas.

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