COLD SPRINGS, Nev. (KOLO) One look at the number of cars parked outside a Cold Springs home one recent afternoon and the commotion inside told you a party was in progress.
It could have been any family reunion. A little noisier than most, a little larger perhaps, more hugs. Then again there are three generations of an extended Italian-American family inside, so perhaps that was to be expected..
But this was different. This gathering is taking place against all odds. Sixty-seven years late.
It owed a lot to chance and modern science.
Bob Cavakis grew up one of five siblings, three by his mother's first marriage. Two by her second. There were family rumors, a clue here and there about another, given up at birth as she fled a disfunctional marriage.
"None of us knew that for sure and our mother would never talk about it," says Bob. "When she passed away a couple of years ago we still didn't know."
Meanwhile Nick Hetman grew up elsewhere, only learning at 15 he had been adopted. But raised by loving parents he never went looking for his origins.
"Why? Because I felt there was a reason for that and I stayed involved with the family that adopted me."
As luck would have it, recently both were talked into taking the popular 23 and Me DNA test.
At their Kentucky home, Nick's fiancee Yvonne was curious about her own ancestry and urged him to sign up as well. Here in Reno, Bob, a sister and brother did the same.
"More than anything to find out about he possibility of diseases and afflictions and maybe where we were from to confirm the part of Italy where we thought our father was from."
The results started coming in. Bob says there were hundreds of distant relatives. Then something unexpected. Back in Kentucky, Nick and Yvonne were also getting surprising news.
"Three weeks later, Yvonne calls me and says 'Have you read your report?' I said what report? So we go to looking on there and it says 'Well, you've got a brother and a sister and a nephew.'"
He reached out to those here in Nevada.
"I got one text from Nick and he said 'We'd like to come to Reno,' says Bob, "and his words are still in my head. He said 'I have a lot to process.'"
Connections made, plans for a reunion emerged. Nick, not quite believing at first, still dubious, arrived in Reno.
"I still didn't feel it until I got to the top of the steps and we look down and see the banner and people are yelling and it hit me and the tears came, finally."
Bob says he knew his brother right away and shortly it all seemed normal.
"Within probably 15 minutes it just felt like our brother was just coming home. It was wonderful."
"The envelopment of love that I immediately felt," says Nick. "Because these people could have said 'Nah, you haven't been in our lives for 67 years. Big deal.' But it wasn't like that.
"A good friend of mine has always told me God has a plan and it's perfect. We're here. We're here."