Saturday, November 29, 2008

Finding Harvey Jewell

Have you ever lost contact with someone special in your life?

I was named after my father’s friend, an American navy man named Harvey Jewell. As a child, I grew up hearing stories of my dad’s friendship with him. According to my father, they were such good friends that he had wanted Harvey to be his future child’s “ninong” (godfather). Unfortunately, Harvey J. had to leave the Philippines the night before I was born, but not before receiving a promise from my father that the baby, boy or girl (no ultrasound tests in those days), would be named Harvey. And so it came to pass that a Filipino baby girl was named Harvey.

Immediately after getting back home, he did write my father. With his letter came a picture of him and his bride, Norma Jean. They were married in Lafayette, Indiana in 1946. My father had kept that picture and letter through the years, which he would show to relatives or friends when he had to explain how I got to be named Harvey.

For many years, I was resigned to the fact that I would never get to meet the man after whom I was named. My hopes were raised with the introduction of Internet, and especially Google. I would “google” his name but finding no real leads, I soon gave up.

However, last December, a friend urged me to search for Harvey again, reminding me that new information is being added to the Internet everyday. I followed her advice, and googled for Harvey Jewel (I had mistakenly thought that his family name had only one L), but nothing came up. I searched for “Harvey Jewel Lafayette Indiana” and again nothing. I tried Harvey Jewel Norma Jean Lafayette Indiana and boom… an entry in the Lafayette Gazette appeared… Harvey E. Jewell and Norma Jean, married March 23, 1946. Bingo!

From there, I tried one of the best sources of information if one is trying to locate a person. I went to 411, and entered his name and Lafayette, Indiana. There were other Jewells, but not Harvey or Norma Jean. I decided to expand my search, and simply put Harvey E. Jewell. Quite a few Harvey Jewells were listed, but one entry said “Lt. Cmdr. Harvey E. Jewell. My heart skipped a beat, and with my fingers shaking with the exciting thought that I had found him, I clicked on his name.

Then, lo and behold, there it was. His age was listed as his 82 – a very plausible age. But, there was no email address – only a home address. I wrote him a letter and mailed it on December 2, 2007. In that letter, I told him that I was leaving the U.S. on December 8, but gave two cellphone numbers and all my landlines in the Philippines, plus, of course, my email and home address.

On December 14, I saw an email from a Gary Bement that I almost deleted because I did not know him, and I thought it was spam. I was very thankful that I went on to read his email, and discovered that he was Harvey Jewell's son-in-law.

Since Harvey did not do emails, we communicated through Gary. We soon had an exchange of emails going back and forth. Gary would write for his dad-in-law, based on letters that Harvey would write on paper. He had many stories about my father, and it did not take long for me to decide that I wanted to meet Ret. Lt. Cmdr. Harvey E. Jewell in person!

To be continued…