People, Places & Perspectives View From Here;
Story by Kelli McAllister
Netting a Father
Article from December 11-18, 1997 Ventura County Reporter
(original article had additional details and has been corrected here for accuracy )
The Internet-what a tool. You can find
that exotic wildebeest recipe or the complete filmography of Adrienne Barbeau. You may
even be able to find your father, whom you haven't seen in more than three decades.
As a child, Oxnard resident Kristin Olsen-Alls never gave much thought
to the man who gave her life.
Her mother's subjective (and less-than-accurate) portrait of Daddy as a
no-good scoundrel, was all Olsen-Alls needed to leave well enough alone. But she never
entirely forgot the mystery of her missing parent.
"I wondered about it off and on over the years", she said
"and then when I hit my late 20's, I decided to see if I could find him".
With no birth date, no hometown, no middle name, no pictures, and an
uncooperative mother, chances of finding him appeared slim. Olsen-Alls had only two pieces
of information: a partial name, Wilhelm Olsen, and the knowledge he was born somewhere in
Norway. With so little to go on, her inquiries to the Danish and Norwegian consulates
Enter our tale's twin heroes, the aforementioned Internet, and Kristin's new
husband, Ben Alls, who had launched his own computer consulting firm in 1994, shortly
before meeting Kristin. Romance blossomed, and she joined him in his business the
following year. In 1996, the two married and moved into Kristin's mother's
house (to help
her and Kristin's grandmother who were both ill). There, among her mother's documents,
Olsen-Alls encountered some new information vital to her search.
"I found an envelope stuffed full of papers about my father",
she said. "Letters, documents, address and other important information.
Kristin learned her father was born in Kristiansand, Norway. She now
had his birth date, and discovered, to her surprise, she had siblings.
Ben recognized the unresolved family conflict within his new bride. He
encouraged her to renew the search for her dad.
Early in 1996, Kristin began e-mailing anyone faintly relevant to her
search. Approximately seven moths later, she met a Norwegian named Stig, who led her to a
cousin, Jan, who in turn led Kristin to another cousin, Ellen. It was Ellen who provided
the critical link, revealing that Kristin's father Wilhelm spent half the year in Denmark
and the other half in Spain. Ellen didn't know Wilhelm's Danish address, but she gave
Kristin his phone number and address in Spain.
"I e-mailed, and I called, and I sent letters, and I got no
response", Kristin said. "Finally I sent one last letter to Spain".
One week later- about eight months after meeting Stig- Kristin's father
called from Spain. He explained that he hadn't been at his Spanish home, and was unaware
of Kristin's prior, frustrated attempts to contact him.
Kristin tried her best to get acquainted with her newfound father by
telephone. After several months, she and Ben packed up their three children last June and
journeyed to Denmark to meet Wilhelm in person. The timing was especially Poignant.
Their initial reunion was predictably joyous, but Kristin's long search
would end somewhat ambivalently. Her father had seemed pleasant and likable on the phone,
but in person Kristin came to share some of her mother's perspective.
"I have a half-sister that I met over there, Tanya", Kristin
said. "I have another half-sister, Brenda, in Florida, whom we're going to meet next
summer. And there's another half-sister in Germany, but I haven't met her yet".
Still, Kristin has no regrets about tracking down her dad. "He is
extremely intelligent, and he is also extremely family-oriented", she said.
"He's been married for many years now to a wonderful woman...He will do anything in
the world for his family members".
Kristin and her dad still chat regularly two or three times a month,
and Wilhelm sends his grandchildren birthday cards and holiday greetings at every
opportunity. Depending upon the state of Wilhelm's dwindling health, Kristin's oldest son
is planning to stay with his granddad in Spain for several months next winter.
"I now have sisters and family, and I'll do anything in the world
to help them". Kristin said. "Everything that I had to go through to get here-
including the cost of having to go to Denmark- was well worth it".
Ironically, Kristin learned her father and two sisters had previously
tried to find her, getting as far as Oxnard before his leads evaporated.
"My mom's phone number is unlisted, her address is unlisted, I got
married so I was no longer and Olsen. But they got really close to finding me", she
The experience Kristin gained in her quest to discover her father has
instilled in her an unexpected and lingering interest in genealogy. She's traced Ben's
lineage all the way back to 1600 A.D., and shares her time and expertise with others
looking for family members.
"I've helped two people find their parents, and it felt really
good", she said.
Follow Up Information since this article was written:
Kristin keeps in touch with her dad and two of her
sisters, Brenda and Tanya. Kristin and the family drove from CA to
FL to meet Brenda and her child. Her dad, his wife Ase, her sister
Tanya and Tanya's boyfriend Henrik flew over from Denmark, so it was a
huge family reunion. Tanya and Henrik drove back to CA with Kristin
and the Family.
Kristin, Ben and the youngest Zak flew to Denmark in
April 2002 to see her dad and sister Brenda and her two girls. Tanya
had previously moved to Australia with Henrik. The trip was great
and was combined with a buying trip for Celtic Attic. The reunion
Kristin has still to find the third sister in Germany
and to find her way to the homeland of Kristiansand, Norway, but no hope
is lost. All will happen in due time.
IF you look for someone and find them, accept them
unconditionally! Remember, you are the one that searched them out
and you must have patience, love and acceptance. All things have a
Update as of December, 2003. Kristin is still in
touch with her sisters and step-mother, Ase. They saw each other in
for the last time in 2002, but exchange cards and telephone calls
regularly. Wilhelm died very suddenly on December 3rd, 2003.
While this is terribly sad and painful, it is a blessing that they were
ever reunited and a lifetime of memories were fulfilled in a few short
years. Never look back, only ahead.