Hilda Hudson celebrated her 100th birthday last weekend – with her long lost son, Bob, at the heart of the family gathering.
Bob, 62, and his family were reunited 18 months ago after a simultaneous search – he knocking door to door in Poet’s Corner, Banbury and his daughter Tanya through the ancestors’ search system, Heir Hunters.
The Hudson family, originally brought up in Great Tew where Hilda and her husband, Donald worked for the estate, enjoyed a party at Bob’s sister, Hazel Milligan’s Banbury home.
“Bob had left 33 years ago after a failed marriage. He had a small daughter, Tanya, but things had gone wrong and he decided to get away from everything and everyone,” said Mrs Milligan.
“The longer he had been gone the harder it was for him to get in touch.
“But Tanya, who’s now grown up and has a daughter, Emily, aged six, said she wouldn’t marry unless her Dad could walk her up the aisle. She tried a private investigator but there was no success.
“Then someone suggested Heir Hunters, the researchers for ITV’s Long Lost Families programme,” she said. “It never got on to the programme because Bob found me on the census and tracked me down just before Christmas, 2014.”
Mr Hudson, a photographer and self-employed courier now living at Harbourne, near Birmingham, said he had started by knocking on doors in Browning Road, which was the last address he had for his sister.
“I’d been ‘missing’ for 33 years but I was always aware of my daughter, who was three when I had last seen her,” he said.
“I’d been thinking about trying to find them for a while. The feeling always got stronger at Christmas and the December before last I decided to do it.
“I knocked on doors in Browning Road and no one knew her but someone suggested I try a nearby road.
“I finally knocked at her door at 9am on a Sunday morning. Neither of us recognised the other.
“I asked if she was Hazel and said ‘I’m Bob’. I had left aged 29 and in the back of my mind I feared my mother had died and I wasn’t around.”
Mrs Milligan called Tanya who rushed round for an emotional reunion.
“I spoke to my mother on the Monday morning and went to her nursing home, Banbury Heights, to meet her on the Tuesday,” said Mr Hudson.
“Bob was very surprised our mother was still alive. He had felt guilty about not contacting her,” said Mrs Milligan. “He and I were quite close in age and had been very close as children.
“My mother’s birthday party was very busy, there were 36 here at my home. She is one of eleven children and her two remaining sisters, Kath and Violet, 94 and 91, were here. Both still live independently in Rugby.”
Mrs Hudson married husband Donald, had three children and worked as a housekeeper and nanny for the landowners’ families.
“Her life has had some dramatic moments – she was about to be married but ran off the day before her wedding to be with my father. Her own father had told her she must be honest if she did not love her fiance,” said Mrs Milligan.
The family have spent two Christmases together and Mr Hudson has been reunited with many family members including one cousin he had not seen for 45 years, who he met again at Sunday’s party.