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For 26 years, Ronnie Rudolph’s family believed he was dead after his then employer informed Ronnie’s daughter, Janie, that her father had had a heart attack and died.
Janie, who knew her father had moved to Illinois and then to Tennessee after he split from Janie’s mother, would reach out and call him while he was at his job at a concrete plant. That’s when she received the news that he had died.
“They just told me that he had a heart attack and he had problems and that he was deceased,” Janie told WTVF. “I believed it and I didn’t investigate it. I moved around, I was married, and I had my family, and I didn’t have money so I just felt like I couldn’t do anything much.”
Ronnie’s older sister, Juanita Elliott, also admitted to losing touch. “I was all settled and with married life and kids, we kind of just drifted apart. I lost the number to his work for one thing, and I lost contact with him.”
Ronnie said he believed no one wanted him and didn’t try to reach out for all those years. The loss of communication resulted in missing out on nearly 30 years together.
After the call about her father’s supposed death, Janie informed her family that Ronnie had died, and they all accepted it as truth for 26 years — until Janie’s mother died four months ago, and Janie felt the need to obtain her father’s death certificate as well.
“I started looking for a death certificate, and I could not find one on my father, so we were thinking he might be alive somewhere,” Janie told WTVF.
Eventually, after speaking with other family members and the concrete plant, Janie and her daughter found out that Ronnie was living with a friend in Tennessee. Janie said the reality of her father being alive felt like “a dream.”
On Black Friday, Ronnie finally got to see his children and sister again, along with four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. The 72-year-old has suffered two strokes and could not speak clearly, but he expressed happiness at finally being reunited.
“It is a good feeling to have all the family together again,” his sister said.