#LongLostFamily: woman who found her father reveals he has Alzheimer's

Woman whose US Navy father met her mother while serving in Derry during the Troubles before being forced to cut contact leaves Long Lost Family viewers in tears as she reveals he now has Alzheimer’s – 10 years after their reunion

  • Wendy O’Hagen, from Derry, was reunited with her father Grant Williams in 2012
  • Grant, with US Navy, met mother Sarah while stationed in Derry during Troubles
  • Were kept apart by Navy because US soldiers discouraged to mix with Irish girls 
  • Sarah wrote Grant letters during pregnancy but they were kept away from him
  • Decade on from Long Lost Family reunion Wendy revealed Grant has Alzheimer’s

A woman who was reunited with her father on Long Lost Family 10 years ago has revealed he now suffers from Alzheimer’s as they return to the ITV show. 

Wendy O’Hagen, from Derry, originally appeared on the ITV show in 2012, where she was reunited with her father, Grant Williams, a former US navy officer who lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Grant had met Wendy’s mother Sarah while stationed in Derry during the Troubles, but was deported when their relationship was found out because British police thought he was an ‘IRA sympathiser.’ 

They managed to write to each other through Sarah’s pregnancy, but communication was cut short after Wendy was born because the Navy intercepted Grant’s letters to Sarah, fearing it would interfere in the delicate political situation. 

Wendy O’Hagen, from Derry, originally appeared on Long Lost Family in 2012, where she was reunited with her father, Grant Williams, a former US navy officer who lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico (pictured)

In yesterday’s Long Lost Family: What Happened next, viewers were heartbroken to hear that Grant, pictured, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s since he met Wendy

When she laid eyes on her father during an emotional reunion ten years ago, Wendy said finding him was the best decision she’s ever made. 

However, in yesterday’s Long Lost Family: What Happened next, viewers were heartbroken to hear that Grant has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s since he met Wendy. 

In spite of being ‘angry’ at the situation, Wendy revealed in the programme that she loves Grant and the pair said they wanted to make the most of their time together, as the former US Navy officer’s condition is ‘rapidly progressing.’  

Wendy, a mother-of-two, opened up about her father’s diagnosis on last night’s show. 

‘I feel a little bit angry. You feel you’ve just got that person and then you’re starting to lose them and that is difficult,’ she said. 

Wendy first heard about Grant from her mother Sarah when she was seven years old. She knew he was a US Navy officer who had been stationed in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. 

Wendy, who grew up in Derry, first heard of Grant from her mother Sarah when she was seven and began to look for him as an adult 

Viewers found Wendy and Grant’s story very emotional and were sad to hear he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 

At the time, the US Navy was discouraging their soldiers from getting involved in the Northern Irish conflict, and that included mixing with the local women.  

‘My understanding that he’s got into the fight with the British army, and 48 hours later he was deported,’ Wendy said. 

Her mother Sarah had no idea of where Grant had been sent to, or whether she would ever see him again.  

‘And then to find out she was pregnant must have been the devastation of her,’ Wendy said. 

Grant, pictured at the time, was with US Navy, and met Wendy’s mother Sarah while stationed in Derry during Troubles

Sarah explained Grant was deported suddenly, and they exchanged letters throughout her pregnancy 

Grant began to write to Sarah, and she informed him of the pregnancy via letters. 

The couple continued to exchange letters, until communication was cut short after Wendy was born. 

‘My mother thought maybe he had met someone else, he had moved on. And she continued to live with a broken heart,’ Wendy said.

Wendy revealed she never stopped searching for her dad, saying through tears: ‘I’ve thought of him every single day. Has he passed away? Is he still alive?

‘Am I looking for someone who doesn’t exist anymore?

Wendy, pictured in 2012, said her mother was devastated when Grant stopped replying to her letters 

The mother-of-two couldn’t hide her tears when she eventually met with her father in London in 2012

The pair shared a long hug and talked of how happy they were to have found each other on the show in 2012

Wendy contacted the Long Lost Family Team, who were able to track down a Grant Williams living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was married and had five children.  

The man confirmed he was Wendy’s father, and agreed to meet with Nicky Campbell. 

‘It was quite a shock at first,’ he admitted, talking about finding out Wendy.

‘I’m anxious to learn more about her, of course. I have a thousands questions,’ he said at the time.

Grant said he never understood why Sarah’s letters stopped coming and why communication stopped. It later was claimed it was due to the US Navy wanting him to cease contact

Grant was also able to give his side of what happened with Sarah.  

He said: ‘I met this girl, Sarah. Sarah lived on the south side of the border, and where I was working was on the north side. I think I got under a little suspicion for how much time I spent over there. 

‘Under suspicion from the British Army or the constabulary. They thought: “IRA sympathiser”.’

He said the situation came to a boil one evening when he was driving Sarah home. 

‘There’s a knock at window, soldier asked me for my ID, opened the door, dragging me up, beat me in the streets, they put me in the back of a vehicle and put me in a jail,’ he explained. 

He said his superiors in the US Navy took him out of Derry that night.  

The daughter and father spent some time together and met each other’s families after their reunion 

It was revealed in the update that Grant kept Wendy’s baby shoes and baby tag for decades before they met 

‘I was given orders: no contact and don’t ever talk about this,’ he revealed. 

But in spite of the interdiction, he wrote to Sarah and gave her his address so they could keep exchanging letters.  

‘I wrote her that I wanted to come back, my last letter was never replied to,’ he said, with Nicky explaining that Sarah never received that last letter.

This was an eye-opening revelation for Grant, who said he thought Sarah and Wendy had just forgotten about him.  

He admitted: ‘I thought I was just off their radar, that they had forgotten about me and went on with their lives and I was just a bad memory. 

Ten years on, and in spite of her father’s heartbreaking diagnosis, Wendy said she loves him and that finding him is the best decision she’s ever made 

Grant travelled to Derry, where he and Wendy discussed the hard times he spent stationed there 

‘I didn’t know what Wendy knew about me or what she’d been told.’ 

He also revealed he started looking for his daughter himself ten years before the show, but hadn’t had enough details to go on on.

‘Even though I’ve never met or known Wendy at all, I love her. Thank you,’ he said, on learning he had been found. 

Wendy burst into tears when Davina McCall travelled to Derry to tell her the team had found her father. 

She could barely talk trough tears, managing to croak: ‘I’m so glad this has happened. I’ve never been so happy.’

Shortly after that, Grant made the journey to London to meet Wendy in person. 

The pair were reduced to tears when they laid eyes on each other for the first time, and shared a silent, teary hug.  

Wendy said she was happy that her youngest child got to spend more time with his grandfather 

‘I’m so happy I found you,’ Wendy told him. 

‘I never knew what anybody thought, everything disappeared, everything got cut off, the communication got lost,’ Grant told her. 

‘We can’t live in the past, I lived in it for too long looking for you,’ Wendy said. 

‘I think this has made my father very happy, and me extremely happy, I don’t have to look or search again,’ Wendy said at the end of the 2012. 

But this joy was short-lived, and Wendy revealed in the update last night that her father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

And she admitted that she struggled to form an emotional connection with her father in the early weeks after their reunion. 

‘I think initially, I met a stranger,’ she said. ‘I met my father and I knew that I was his daughter because I see myself in him but I thought for me emotionally, the connection is not there. 

‘One day, he said to me “I love you” and I froze. And I thought, “this didn’t feel right”.

‘It was like a stranger telling me that he loved me, for a good few weeks, I didn’t want to contact him, I felt very distant from him.’

However, she eventually decided to confront her father about how she felt.  

‘It came to the stage where I thought I had to tell him: “Why, dad? it made me feel funny,’ she said. 

‘He said “of course, baby girl. But then you have to remember, I’ve always loved you”.’

Grant then showed her he had kept her baby shoes with him in a tin box. He gave them to her when they reunited and she showed them on the programme. 

‘I was so shocked: these were my first pair of baby shoes. My mother actually sent them to him, on the ship. I took this one here, and I couldn’t believe it,’ she said. 

‘At the bottom, was my baby tag, from the hospital. This was extremely emotional for me,’ she added. It just proved how much he cared.’

Grant, who appeared in the update and travelled to Derry to see Wendy, said she had always been a part of his life.  

‘There is nothing more to say, she’s my daughter,’ he said. 

Viewers were touched by Wendy’s story and applauded the programme for being an emotional watch 

It was also revealed that since the show, Grant was also reunited with Sarah. 

They also recently discovered that it was the US Navy who had kept Grant’s letters from Sarah.  

‘I’ve got a lot of anger from what went on,’ he admitted to the camera. 

Wendy said: ‘It’s an extremely difficult subject, how my father was separated from my mother. But not everything is a beautiful story, we have to listen to the ugly bits as well. He wants to share with me what happened.’

The trip was also a chance for Wendy’s son to spend more time with his grandfather.

She explained: ‘Times like these are really important, my dad’s condition is rapidly changing every day and it’s very emotional for us.’

Grant said: ‘I’m just thrilled that I have all this going on, I’m going to take in every minute.’

Wendy still said that finding Grant was still ‘one of the best things I made the decision to do.’

‘What can I say, he’s there and I love him,’ she added. 

Viewers were emotional over the story and the tearful update.  

‘This poor man, having his relationship with his daughter ruined by the navy, and getting Alzheimer’s after he finally meets her. No job should have that much power over someone’s life,’ one viewer said.

‘He kept her baby shoes,’ another said, with a crying gif. 

‘Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best programmes on TV. Emotional wreck every time,’ another said.

‘He’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, how heartbreaking,’ said one. 

‘Every time… I get sucked into watching #longlostfamily and it brings out so many emotions,’ one wrote. 

‘If you don’t get emotional, you’re not human,’ they added. 

Long Lost Family: What Happened Next is available on All4 

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