After half of a century, one East Tennessee man is seeing another branch on his family tree. John Kucela learned he had a sister he didn't know about, but it wasn't the first surprise sibling.
Kucela is no stranger to surprises. Years ago he and his two brothers and sister found out they had a half brother in Germany who had been put up for adoption. This time the surprise was a sister just two states over who was also put up for adoption.
John Kucela is the head basketball coach at Pigeon Forge High School. He sees thrills on the court. And even some in his life. Kucela received a phone call from his sister, Ethel, in 2011. It was a call he wont forget.
"She called me and said I need to sit down. I said 'what's going on,'" said John.
He found out he has a sister. Her name is Cathy Walker, and she is a teacher who lives in Virginia.
"She's a special-ed teacher and I am a special-ed teacher. Her husband and my wife, they are both pharmacists," said John.
Cathy was adopted shortly after being born, and she didn't find out about it until she was 57.
After her mother had passed away, she and her husband decided to move in with and take care of her father.
One day, while cleaning out her father's truck with her husband, she found a brown bag. Inside was a binder with adoption papers.
She waited some time before she confronted her father about them.
"After two weeks I took the binder into the bedroom where he was and said 'daddy we need to talk', and he turned white as a ghost. Looked at me and hummed and said 'your mother always wanted to tell you and I didn't so we didn't tell you.' I guess that's the generation they didn't tell children they were adopted," said Cathy.
Walker was born with the name "Anette Martha Fleckenstein" in Germany. She used this information to track down the Kucela family.
Cathy and John had the same mother, Ida Fleckenstein. When Walker began researching her ancestry online, she came across a manifest of the Queen Mary ship that came over from Germany. On the manifest, she found the names Ida and Ethel Fleckenstein.
So she wrote a letter to Ethel explaining her interest in meeting the family.
"What I would say to her is I wouldn't change a thing and I grew up to be a good mother and good wife. And I owed that to the family that adopted me. I just wish I could have met her and let her know she did the right thing," said Cathy.
This is not the first time John found out he had a long lost sibling. Years before his mother passed away, he found out he had a half brother in Germany named Rudolph. Rudolph is the oldest of Ida's children, and he had a similar realization as Walker's.
John and Rudolph have never met in person, but have been in contact. Since there is a language barrier, John speaks to Rudolph's daughter who now lives in America.
John said Rudolph has more questions about why he wasn't informed earlier in life.
Even after all of these family surprises, John and Cathy look at this with a positive light, awaiting any more surprises to come.
John said his next step is to get everyone to Germany, where Cathy, Rudolph and Ethel were born. He hopes that meeting Rudolph in person will help bridge the divide, especially since Cathy went through a very similar situation.
He said they also have some aunts there who might be able to tie up loose ends about who Cathy and Rudolph's fathers were.