A reunion years in the making involving a man whose family thought he was dead.
They had lost touch because he was homeless and his search for relatives took him across the country before he thumbed his way back to his hometown of Caro.
Thanks to the kindness of two strangers, including a Caro police officer, Leroy Putnam is back home.
“We figured he, you know, got killed or died or something because we hadn’t seen him for at least 12-15 years,” Dorcas Smith, Leroy’s sister said.
“He was homeless. So, he had no way of contacting his family to tell them that he was still alive,” said Officer Ryan Avery with the Caro Police Department.
For the past few years Putnam had been on a hitchhiking journey from California to Caro in search of his family.
He made it back to his hometown and was living in a tent outside the Caro Walmart.
“I guess he was walking around Walmart at one point with a list of family members on a piece of paper. He was just going up to people: do you know these people?” Avery said.
That’s when Putnam found Treanna Dietrich and her fiancé. The three made small talk.
“One thing led to another, and he told me the last name, and I said you know I know some people with that last name!” Dietrich said.
A couple of Facebook searches and phone calls later, Dietrich tracked down Putnam’s long-lost sister, Dorcas smith.
“We had got a phone call from this girl at Walmart saying that she thinks that she has our brother,” Smith said.
“So, she called me to go to Walmart and check on his wellbeing and also check and see if it really was her brother,” Avery said.
“They sent me a picture of him, and I said: oh my gosh, it is him. I was just in tears, bawling,” smith said.
Within 15 minutes, Smith was at Walmart, embracing her brother.
“And he said, I prayed so hard this morning, maybe I’d see my family today. And here you are,” Smith said.
“I told Leroy, I said I think it’s the grace of god. I felt like I needed to talk to him,” Dietrich said.
Dietrich said she feels like his guardian angel. Officer Avery was just happy to be involved.
“It’s not every day in this job that you get to be part of something like that and that’s pretty cool. That’s why we do this job,” Avery said.