Life

Separated for over half century, cousins reunite in Cedar Rapids

'This was my bucket list. This was my mission,' Englander says

Doreen Meier of Cedar Rapids, left, chats with her cousin, Susan Mullerworth of Oakley, Buckinghamshire, England, last Thursday in Cedar Rapids. After Doreen married a U.S. serviceman and moved from London to the United States in 1955, she and her family grew distant. But Susan had been trying for years to find her, and finally was able to connect through Doreen’s daughter-in-law, Janet Meier of Cedar Rapids. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Doreen Meier of Cedar Rapids, left, chats with her cousin, Susan Mullerworth of Oakley, Buckinghamshire, England, last Thursday in Cedar Rapids. After Doreen married a U.S. serviceman and moved from London to the United States in 1955, she and her family grew distant. But Susan had been trying for years to find her, and finally was able to connect through Doreen’s daughter-in-law, Janet Meier of Cedar Rapids. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — When Doreen Meier married an American serviceman and in 1955 left her home in England, she believed she’d never see her family again.

But a cousin born in England shortly before Doreen left for America grew up hearing stories of her, frequently being told how much she looked and acted like her. It kindled a strong desire to find her and meet her in person.

And eventually she did — in Cedar Rapids.

“It’s like having something unsolved your whole life,” said Susan Mullerworth, 63, who lives in Oakley, Buckinghamshire. “There’s just a piece of you that’s missing.”

In 1954, Doreen met Bob Meier of Cedar Rapids at an afternoon dance while she was working in London and he was stationed there with the U.S. Army. Although her parents hoped nothing would come of it, the two corresponded for a year until Bob asked permission to marry her.

Doreen feels that the emotional stress her mother faced during World War II — having a husband serving in the British Navy, having to send her children away as part of the evacuation during the Blitz — wouldn’t allow her to cope with letting her daughter move all the way to America.

“My mother, my father, my brother were very sad when I left England,” said Doreen, now 86. “The war did terrible things to people. When you live through it, you never forget it. It stays in your heart. And we didn’t talk about things. You learned to keep it all in, deep inside.”

Her Uncle Ernie, the only family member who continued to correspond with her, died in 1970.

But Doreen continued sending letters with information about her life and her seven sons.

While she received nothing back, she was far from forgotten.

Susan spent years trying to track her down. With the advent of the internet, she was able to find the address of Doreen’s daughter-in-law, Janet Meier, in Cedar Rapids and sent her a letter in 2014.

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Janet emailed Susan, and from there she and Doreen soon started Skyping, including with Susan’s mom from her nursing home.

Although Susan wanted to visit sooner, she was diagnosed with stage three bladder cancer while helping her mother through end of life care in 2017 and had to put plans on hold. She said her cancer now is in remission, and she was able to travel.

Doreen recalls seeing her cousin last when Susan was only a few months old. The cousins finally were reunited last week when Susan flew to Cedar Rapids.

“This was my bucket list. This was my mission,” Susan said. “I had to come over, I had to show her the pictures my mother kept of her so she would know she was never forgotten.”

Although she missed her family in England, Doreen said Bob’s family in the United States welcomed her with open arms from the start.

“I couldn’t have married into a sweeter family,” Doreen said. “They opened up their hearts and their homes. I was truly blessed.”

Her husband died in the early 2000s.

This reunion is only the beginning. Doreen has 17 grandchildren, five of her seven sons living, “beautiful daughters-in-law” and new an extended family across the Atlantic Ocean excited to meet her.

CORRECTION, April 19:

Incorrect ages — Doreen Meier, featured in a Wednesday article about how she reconnected with a cousin in England, is 86. The cousin, Susan Mullerworth, is 63. Each of their ages were misstated by one year. Also, Meier had only one brother.

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