When we filmed Chuck’s personal documentary, we knew he had an incredible story of resilience and self-discovery. When we placed it on our website as a video example, none of us realized how much his video would allow for more discovery! The Barrett family shared this touching update with us and both families’ gave us their gracious permission to tell their story.
It started with a phone call.
Bryan answered his phone and a man asked, “Do you know Chuck Barrett and is he still alive?” The man on the line introduced himself as Omar and explained he believed he was Chuck’s half-brother. “We’ve been looking for him for years. We share the same father!”
Chuck had been adopted as a two-year old from Cuba by an American couple. Because his adoptive father was a famous baseball player, his adoption had been noted in magazines from the time and books about the baseball era. Tragically, Chuck’s new family life fell apart after his adoptive parents divorced and his adoptive mother later lost custody of him due to abuse. Chuck grew up knowing nothing about his Cuban parents except brief mentions he’d found in documents. By the time Chuck and his wife Mary recorded his personal documentary in 2016, they had discovered a few familial connections. He had a brother and sister on his adoptive father’s side and his birth mother, named Delia, had given him up for adoption because she could not support him.
Now seven years later, Chuck and Mary discovered missing pieces of his Cuban family, pieces he’d always wished he knew. In an excited and warm first phone call, Chuck met not only his half-brother Omar, but his two half-sisters, Cecilia, and Susi.
“They said over and over that they have known about Chuck (known to them as Pedro) for 50+ years as their father, Nicasio, (Chuck’s birth father and theirs) talked about Pedro alot and had pictures of him as a baby and toddler.”
More to the Story
Nicasio was eighteen when he and Chuck’s mother, Delia, met in Cuba. When Delia became pregnant, she wanted Nicasio to marry her. Delia was older than him and had other children. Nicasio felt he was too young and too poor to take on the responsibility and refused to marry Delia. However, after Chuck was born Nicasio took in his baby son to live with him and his parents for two years. Though she was angry with Nicasio, Delia would come take Chuck for visitations even though she couldn’t provide for Chuck full-time. Then she began to take him away for days at a time. During these disappearances, she would take Chuck to an orphanage where they gave him meals and a place to stay. She would leave him there and return for him multiple times. It was during one of those orphanage stays that Red and Lee Barrett saw him.
Red Barrett was a popular American baseball player. He and his wife Lee wanted to start a family and while spending the season down in Cuba, visited an orphanage. Sounding like a fairytale story, the wealthy American couple choose to adopt the poor sweet toddler. But Delia was the one who surrendered Chuck to the orphanage, not Nicasio. So the Barretts contacted Chuck’s father to see if he would sign a release form to allow them to adopt him. Nicasio still felt unable to properly care for his son and believed the American couple could give Chuck a better life.
“He did ask them to bring him back for visits and THEY DID…. They took him to see him twice a year for 2 years! Then the visits stopped. That is when Lee and Red Barrett got a divorce and Chuck went with Lee.”
Nicasio had given the Barretts an envelope to give to Chuck on his 18th birthday. It contained photos, a story of his Cuban father and family, and a baptismal certificate of Chuck’s baptism into the Catholic Church. He never received the envelope.
Now Chuck got to meet the family he never knew he had: first over the phone and then in person. They laughed and talked over one another, enjoyed lots of Cuban food, and showered Chuck with warmth and affection. They also shared in each other’s successes and heartache, thrilled at their similarities and saddened that their father had not lived to see the reunion. At the same time, after learning about the abuse Chuck went through, the family was glad their father never found out.
“It would have really bothered him to know that, Susi said, as he expressed lots of love for Pedro and sadness at never seeing him again.”
The rest of Chuck’s father’s family had moved to the United States in 1966 and built successful lives in Michigan. Over the years, they tried looking for their lost brother. Chuck’s half-sister Susi had even called Oprah Winfrey once to see if she could help them find him. Then one night a cousin tried typing Chuck’s name in Google and his Legacy video popped up.
“She was so excited she called the whole family in the middle of the night!”
A family legacy video, or in this case a personal documentary, shares your personal story and family heritage with generations to come. These personal videos also connect us to the past. Chuck’s update on his family discovery is a very tangible example of how this happens: it answered questions of the past and gives new life to the next generations in their family. While most families won’t have such a dramatic outcome, the connection that videos provide by intertwining information with visual elements and the voice of the storyteller makes these family stories come to life.