Last month, New Times told the story of Julius Woods, Miami's oldest security guard, a 90-year-old Navy vet who battled the Nazis in the east Atlantic during World War II. Today, Woods works 40 hours a week as a security guard in Belle Meade.
In the article, Woods told the tale of his long-lost little brother Marvin, whom he said he hadn't seen in nearly 70 years. After the war, Woods said, he had lost track of him. "Staying in touch was hard back then," he said. Woods wondered if someone might have information about Marvin.
Larry Wiggins, an accountant at the Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami Beach, is an amateur genealogist with a penchant for finding long-lost people. He forwarded U.S. Census records and a Palm Beach Post obituary to New Times, showing that Marvin Woods passed away in 2002.
Another reader, who wished to remain anonymous, also found Marvin's obituary and went one step further. She called Marvin's daughter, Lynda Woods-Davis, who was named in the death notice and who lives in Palm Beach County.
Lynda, however, had seen the New Times article online and was confused by it. She said her father Marvin and her uncle Julius were in touch shortly before Marvin's death in 2002. Furthermore, she said she saw Julius as recently as last year.
"My uncle and my dad loved each other," she told New Times. "Did they call each other all the time? No. None of that. It was mostly because of my father. My uncle lived his life the right way. My dad didn't."
So a New Times reporter asked Julius at his Belle Meade guard booth last Tuesday about Marvin. Tapping one finger on his forehead and laughing, he admitted, "I was confused. The old man was confused. My daughter and my niece, they straightened me out. Marvin's daughter called me, and she said, 'That's my daddy you were talking about! You know he passed.'"
Woods said the story he told about a long-lost brother was actually about a different brother named James, whom he hadn't mentioned previously.
With the brothers' names straightened out, Julius' family members around Florida began calling one another. A few days later, Julius relayed the good news: "I found my brother!" he said.
Turns out that James Woods, Julius' last surviving sibling, lives in Leesburg, Florida. He's 81 years old and confined to a wheelchair. Julius called his brother Tuesday night to chat.
James said the last time he saw his brother was 33 years ago. "I was in the hospital in Fort Pierce in '83, and he came to see me. I haven't seen him since then. I guess one of my nieces saw your story and got my number to him."
Julius said he plans to drive up to see James the week after next. "We got some catching up to do," he said.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
So there's not quite 70 years of brotherly catching up to do — just 33. But that's still a long time.
In the meantime, Julius has become a minor celebrity. Along with 77 other WWII vets, he flew to Washington, D.C., last month with Honor Flight South Florida to visit the war memorials. Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez were waiting to greet the vets at Miami International Airport when they returned. Both recognized Julius and shook his hand. He was recognized in D.C. too, and he has interviews lined up with other media outlets about his story.
Mostly, he's happy he'll be seeing his little brother again and says he's touched that strangers took the time to research his family.
"I sure appreciate what everyone's done for me," he said. "Christmas came early for me this year."