Friends Misplaced But Not Lost

John W. Pinkerton

After a few years of education, we go to work, raise families, and have lives which don’t allow us to even look up let alone look back.  When we reach the final glide pattern, we have more time on our hands  and a tendency to look back to a time when we were more youthful, and a longing stirs in us to reconnect with old friends long misplaced.  Upon retirement, I began looking for these misplaced friends. 

The first person I found was an old army buddy.  As I recall, what made me instantly like the guy was his honesty: when I asked him why he had been drafted, he immediately responded that he had failed out of college.  Most fellows would avoid telling this truth at all cost.  His failing out of school had nothing to do with his intelligence.  I suspect he was enjoying the peripherals of college more than the courses.  The last time I saw him was over forty years ago.  The first search I did for him was back in the caveman days of the internet, back when just about everything on the net was free.  I put his name, which apparently is pretty unique, into an online service  and requested his telephone number, and there it was: his number and his location, Mississippi.  Apparently, he was the only one with his name in the United States.  Mississippi was not where I had left him; when I last saw him, his home was Kentucky, but Mississippi is still in the South.   I guess folks do move around without asking my permission.  Well, once I located the fellow, did I really want to contact him?  I mean, after all, he could have become a serial killer.  I was still working and didn’t have time for serial killers, so I sat on the information and waited a few years until I had retired.

Being retired gives one much more time to deal with potential serial killers.  So, I began a new search for my old army buddy.  This time the internet had changed.  Folks had begun to want to charge for services.  I tried the people search services.  They could find him, but they wanted money for further details.  Some of the people search services I tried are the following:


(free age and location)

People Search

(free age, location, and relatives)

USA People Search

(free age, location and relatives)

However, the most useful service I’ve found is Zabasearch

( ): free date of birth, address, telephone number, map of location ). However, if I wanted more details, I would be required to spend money, but, being tight with a dollar, I didn’t want to spend money this way. 

What I really wanted was an email address.  I was a little timid about making a telephone call to him.  You recall, serial killer?  I kept doing general searches using his name and the last known location, Mississippi.  Finally, one of my searches located a pottery in Seminary, Mississippi, with a nice website that listed the fellow I was looking for, at least a fellow with the same name.  His job was listed as  “grunt.”  Of course the potter had a website contact email.  I sent a message to her explaining who I was and a brief history of her husband and me when we were in the army together. 

Son-of-a-gun, a few days later I got an email from my old friend.  It turns out that he wasn’t a serial killer.  The funniest thing my old friend said was that after he got out of the service, he spent ten years in California which he admitted damned near killed him.  Fortunately, a good woman found him and drug him back with her to Mississippi and promoted him to grunt.  I sent him a digital copy of an old photo I found of him that I had saved from our time together in Germany.  He and I email each other occasionally and share information if we’ve made contact with someone we knew in the service.

Encouraged by my success in finding my old army buddy, I began a search for a couple who were high school classmates of mine.  While they were going to Louisiana Tech together and I was going to LSU, they had married and upon graduation abruptly moved to Colorado.  It had been about forty years since I last had contact with them other than a brief moment about thirty years ago. 

Unfortunately, their names were not as unique as my army buddy’s, so there were a lot of dead ends.  One of the internet search services provided 64 different fellows with his name in Colorado.  I met these dead ends by making telephone calls to folks in Colorado who had the same names as my classmates.  Finally, one of my telephone calls paid off.  When he first spoke on the phone, I didn’t recognize his voice.  I guess he had developed a Colorado accent--if there is such a thing.  He seemed pleased to hear from me, and I also spoke to his wife who was also a long time friend.  They’ve prospered through the years rearing a family and each pursuing a different career path.  Although we were a little out of the way, my old friend spent a night with us as he was returning to Colorado after visiting his mother in Louisiana.  We picked up our conversation where we had left off 40 years earlier.  We still email each other occasionally, and we visited at our recent 50 year high school reunion.

It’s a little discouraging when you’re looking for an old friend that so many people suspect is dead.  He and I were friends in high school and at LSU where he majored in oceanography.  I was best man in his wedding.   Before I left LSU in 1965, we had a falling out.  As one grows older, one becomes pretty forgiving about perceived wrongs.  So I continued my search hoping that rumors of his demise were exaggerated.

Again a common name.  I checked in Louisiana where I knew he had lived in Lake Charles for some time.  47 listings in Louisiana.   Perhaps he moved to Texas.  130 listings in Texas.  The listing of relatives was helpful, but led to several deadend telephone calls to Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida, and Texas.  When I called or emailed mutual friends, usually the response was, “I think he died.”  When I did my first art show, “Cats, Cats, Cats...,” somehow some of my high school classmates learned of it resulting in emails to me from some of them.  One was from a lady who now lives in Arkansas who contacted me via email.  I asked her about my friend I was trying to find, and she suggested I contact another classmate a little older than us.  She sent me his email address.  I contacted him asking about my friend.  He did some checking but couldn’t find any information about him.  A couple of months later, I got an email from the older fellow who had run in to a relative of my friend’s, and he had gotten his telephone number for me.  I made the call, and, yes, it was him. 

We’ve since exchanged emails and caught up with our lives.  Although he’s been in several types of businesses most of which were successful, he’s presently a big time investor in a potash mine in Utah but lives here in Texas.

By far the easiest old friend to find was another army buddy.  I remembered that he was trained as an artist, and I had made an overnight visit with his family in Pennsylvania while we were waiting at Fort Dix to be discharged from the service. 

I always begin my searches with a general search.  This seldom gets positive results, but it’s a starting point.  I put his name in and got about thirty hits with someone who was an artist with his name.  Could this be the same fellow?  I looked at several of the sites and even viewed a video of  the fellow at an art opening.  You must remember, it had been over 45 years since I had seen my old friend, so the video wasn’t much help.  It appeared that this fellow had been the President of the Ontario School of Art and Design.  But as is usually the case, I couldn’t locate an email address.  I did find a gallery that was displaying his art, so I sent an email to the gallery explaining who I was and that if this was the same fellow who was in the army in Furth, Germany, in the late 60’s, to ask him to email me. 

A couple of days later, I received an email from my friend.  He and I correspond regularly.  It turns out that he’s a well known artist both in Canada and the United States and a wonderful writer which makes me look forward to his emails.

The most recent fellow from the past that I’ve found was a classmate of mine at LSU.  He was a physics major from a little town just north of my hometown in Louisiana.  He was both smart and funny as I recall.  I knew that he had moved to Texas after graduating from LSU.  I kept trying to use the typical methods on the internet to find him.  Although I would occasionally get a hint of a scent of his trail, nothing which led to any positive identification.  I made a couple of phone calls to fellows with the same name here in Texas, but they were same-name-wrong-fellow calls.  Finally, it dawned on me that I had bought an Alumni book from LSU several years ago.  When I first received the book, I glanced at it and put it away.  Time to pull it out.  I found him listed as a “rocket scientist” who worked for NASA and as a Gulf boat captain.  I couldn’t find anything on the net related to NASA listing him.  I started looking for Gulf boat companies.  There are several, but I couldn’t find a listing for him.  Finally, I tried putting the word “Captain” before his name.  Bingo, a picture of my old friend immediately showed up.  Well, I thought it was my old friend.  I couldn’t recognize his face, beard and all, but I seemed to recognize his posture.  There wasn’t an email listed for him specifically, but the secretary for the boat company had an email address.  I sent her a message explaining who I was and how I knew the Captain; that is, if he had gone to LSU.  A couple of days later, I received an email.  It was as though it hadn’t been 45 years between visits.  We regularly email each other.  One great thing about the guy is that he’s never lost his sense of humor.  He was a good find.

The folks I’ve found using the internet are folks I really wanted to find.  I was willing to put in the time required.  There are a few other folks I’d like to reunite with, but I only remember their nicknames or really know few facts about them which is not a big help.

If you’re looking for someone from the past that you’ve misplaced through the years, I suggest the following.  Do a general search using variations of all of the person’s name that you know. Try the online search services, you might find a trail to follow.  Some times you can get useful information from alumni services like Contacting mutual friends may not get you everything you need, but it may point you in the right direction.

If you know the names of relatives, the person’s age and birth date, the likely state in which he or she resides, the profession of the person, knowing ladies’ married names, the religion of the person, where they went to school, and their military record can be helpful. 

Email addresses are really difficult to come by, and because of the increasing use of mobile phones, telephone numbers will become increasingly difficult to obtain,  but if you’re willing to make the effort, you may just find your old friends. 

The efforts I’ve made have certainly been worth my time.  Good luck in your searches. 



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