Brother, sister reunite after 80 years

By Jan-Mikael Patterson
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 30, 2009

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Henry Yabah's older sister Annie Douglas hugs her long-lost brother's arm during their reunion Saturday in Pretty Rock, N.M. Douglas had not seen her brother since they were separated more than 70 years ago.

Each year there are people from various communities near, in, or around the Navajo Reservation that are working to achieve something more in their lives.

The Navajo Times highlighted several people and stories that we thought were inspirational.

Henry Yabah finds his family

Henry Yabah came to the Navajo Reservation to find his family.

He was an orphan at age 2 and spent the majority of his life in the Army before marrying and settling down in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Yabah visited the Navajo Times to tell his story and the information he gave was enough to get a response from his long-lost family.

Yabah and his sister Annie Douglas embraced for the first time in 78 years, overwhelming Douglas with emotion.

The reunion took place Sept. 5, 2009, at the Annie Douglas' residence near Pretty Rock, N.M., southwest of Manuelito, N.M.

"It's hard to believe," Yabah said, who never had children of his own. "Always just thought it was just my wife, my two (step) daughters and my grandchildren."

Yabah and his wife Robin met while he was stationed in Corpus Christi, his last post in a long military career. Robin had two daughters from a previous marriage whom he raised as his own.

Yabah has a Diné family and had finally come home to the Navajo Reservation.

Wild prom night forged a career

It was during Window Rock High School's prom night when Aaron Price decided to pursue a career in the medical field. At the time he was employed as an emergency medical technician for the Navajo Nation's Emergency Medical Services.

Price, 20 at the time, responded to an emergency about an auto accident near the Summit west of Window Rock. He remembers that a victim of the accident had died.

The sad part was when the grandmother of the victim arrived at the hospital, not fully understanding that her grandson was gone.

"She could only speak Navajo," Price recalled. "She was standing there in the same room he was in telling him, 'Get up. You're supposed to take me to Gallup tomorrow.'"

Price was saddened as he witnessed the scene and began questioning his own career path. His question was answered that same day as he was getting off work.

"I was just about to leave my shift when a car came screeching and swerving (into the ER parking bay)," Price said. "There was lady who was screaming that she was having a baby."

Price helped deliver the baby. He remembered telling the nurses on duty that they 'lost one but gained another."

Price earned his degree through the UNM Medical School in Albuquerque in May. He is currently doing his residency in Las Vegas, Nev.

Battling with dyslexia

Kasei Storer, 23, fought through dyslexia, homesickness and the grief of losing her grandmother, Wilhemina Benally, and graduated earlier this month with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies, health innovations and education.

Dyslexia is a disability in which the brain reverses words that the eye sees.

"It's not something that can be fixed right away," Storer noted. "I had to learn to adapt."

While attended school at Hilltop Christian School in Tse Bonito, N.M., she learned to cope thanks to the help of a fifth-grade teacher familiar with the disability.

She was taught methods to get around her disability but it wasn't until college she had to "to learn to adapt and I had to teach myself to work faster," she said.

"I've had this learning disorder my entire life," Storer said. "I felt dumb. I felt really, really dumb. I know that this is a something that I am going to have to deal with my entire life. I felt isolated.

"I wanted to drop out because of both the disorder and being homesick," she said.

Instead, with the encouragement and the support of people close to her she continued to forge ahead. Part of her journey is accomplished with her graduation but her dream to be a practicing physician is far from over.

Storer graduated earlier this month from the Arizona State University in Tempe. She plans to continue pursuing a career in  nursing.

Losing big isn't bad at all

Robert Velasco lost big and he's happy about it because he has burned off 105 pounds, dropping from 437 pounds to 332 pounds.

He is still 122 pounds from his goal of 210 pounds for his 5-foot-10 frame.

Velasco, 41, shared his triumph during Diabetes Awareness Month in November. What helped his decision to get better was a heart attack he suffered on May 15.

"If you want to live until Christmas," Velesco's doctor at Fort Defiance Hospital, Christina Chong, said, "you need to make some major changes in your life."

"This was my life: TV, TV, TV, eat, eat, TV, eat, eat, eat," he said. "I couldn't throw a football with my son. I couldn't even take him to the movies, because I couldn't fit in the seats."

Velasco made drastic changes and the results are showing as he is now able to walk without a walker and does not need an oxygen tank.

He also made changes to his lifestyle because he saw that his son was afraid of losing him due to his obesity.

Focused, determined and respectful

Parents Tony and Rhonda Monroe are very proud parents. Their eldest son, Drelyn Monroe, 7, is achieving great things with his karate training.

"I'm the only one with a blue belt in my class," he said at the time of his interview in October. "These are the patches that I earned."

The patches earned are merits for learning and completing certain levels and so far he has little room left on his tiny uniform or gii.

Drelyn trains with the Young Champions of America, part of the local YMCA in Tempe.

Drelyn is Ma'ii Deeshgiizhnii (Coyote Pass Clan), born for Táchii'nii (Red Running into Water Clan). His maternal grandfather is Kinlichíi'nii (Red House Clan) and his paternal grandfather is Tl'ízí Lání (Many Goats Clan).

His father Tony is originally from Tolani Lake, Ariz., and his mother Rhonda is from Chinle. Drelyn and his younger sister, Jasmyne, grew up in the Valley.

His parents credit the karate training for increasing his son's powers of concentration, but that's not the only quality that sets the boy apart. People have told his parents about how respectful, courteous and generous Drelyn is.

Drelyn, a second-grader at Woods Elementary School, is protective of his sister and will intervene if someone picks on her, Tony said, "but he doesn't use his training to beat people up."

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