ELLSWORTH — When Brian Langley arrived on his sister’s Kansas doorstep Nov. 13, the pair discovered they had dressed for the occasion nearly identically.
Both wore gray-and-black flannel shirts and blue jeans. Their shared fashion sense was not the product of a shared upbringing however. It was the first time the half-siblings had met.
“It looked like we got up and dressed each other for the day,” Langley said. “For me, I walked in and felt like I’ve known her a very long time.”
Langley, a term-limited state senator and owner of the Union River Lobster Pot in Ellsworth, discovered his half-sister through Ancestry.com. The DNA site indicated Susie Poe might be a cousin, but the tie was closer than that. After connecting through the site, they realized they had the same father, Ernest Langley.
Poe was born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1956. At the time, Ernest was a cook in the U.S. Army stationed in the city. He and Poe’s German mother had been in a relationship until shortly after her birth. She and her mother later immigrated to America. Raised by a stepfather, Poe had a few photographs of her biological father but knew little else.
Ernest married Brian’s mother, Claire, in 1958 and they had three sons. Brian never knew he had an older sister. Both his parents and Poe’s mother and stepfather are now deceased.
Brian said it’s likely his father assumed Susie and her mother stayed in Germany. If he knew about their move to the United States, things might have been different, he said.
“I told her that he would’ve welcomed her with open arms with what I knew of him,” Langley said.
Hoping to make up for lost time, Poe invited Langley to come stay with her and her husband at their home in Hutchinson, Kan.
Langley and wife, Jane, came bearing Maine-themed gifts — chocolate-covered blueberries and cranberries from Renys and granite coasters from the Rock & Art shop.
In addition to their shared taste in flannel, the newfound siblings discovered that they are both avid tea drinkers with well-stocked tea cupboards. In Poe’s kitchen, Langley spotted the same teapot he has at home in Ellsworth.
“Those kinds of things are kind of eerie really,” he said. “You’ve never met this person you have so much in common with.”
During the visit, Langley met nieces and nephews and several of Poe’s grandchildren. He enjoyed getting a taste of “Middle America,” and learned some of the local lingo. Much as Mainers object to Bangor being pronounced “bang-er,” Kansans feel strongly about how people pronounce the Arkansas River. Langley said he learned to say it ar-kan-zes, like Kansas, not Arkansas.
In barbecue country, Langley dared to make smoked brisket, cole slaw and baked beans for his hosts and said the meal was “well-received.” He also showed his sister how to make fish chowder, a staple at his restaurant.
Langley also shared family photos and stories.
“This is something she had wondered about her whole life — for me, it’s a new thing,” Langley said. “I think for her it was really nice to see her roots and where she came from.”
Both early-risers, Langley said Poe’s movements going around opening window shades in the morning reminded him of his father. They’d sit and chat as the rest of the household began to stir.
Their first meeting was front-page news in the Nov. 20 edition of The Hutchinson News. Langley said their story is hardly unique, as the popularity of DNA testing has brought to light many similar twists in family trees that would once have stayed buried.
He and Poe are now finding ways to stay connected.
“For both of us it adds kind of a new wrinkle to our lives,” Langley said. “There’s this other whole family that’s out there that now you’re a part of.”
He hopes his sister will be able to make the trip to Maine this spring.
“For me, it’s a really nice gift,” he said of their recent meeting just before the holiday season.