Kim Cox lives in Calgary, Canada, more than 2,000 miles away from her paternal heritage. Born in December 1957, months after her father's Korean conflict-era death while piloting a F9F5 Panther jet, Kim's life has been one of wondering.
Wondering what if. What could be. What might have been.
In all her life, during all her days and nights and summer vacations and school years, she yearned to be in touch with her father's life, his relatives … her own relatives. But it wasn't to be.
Until last Friday.
Kim and her husband, Bob, came to Hannibal. Here, she listened to stories, hugged cousins, touched grave monuments and walked along the same sidewalks that her father and all of his predecessors once walked.
She came home.
In the beginning
The story of Kim Cox begins in Hannibal's early years. Her ancestor, Cornelius Amaziah Treat, came to Hannibal after the Civil War. He was commissioned by President Chester Arthur to build the old Federal Building at Sixth and Broadway. Her ancestor made railroad car wheels that were used across the nation. Her ancestors were merchants and manufacturers, leading citizens and influential business leaders.
Those ancestors now fill row after row in Hannibal's Mount Olivet Cemetery, most at rest under the shadow of an ornate marker ordered by the family patriarch from New York, engraved with the five letters of the family name:
Last Friday, after a life-long yearning to find her heritage, Kim Cox found herself standing in the midst of her family.
Family was something that Kim grew up without. Her mother was an only child. Her father was dead. She knew her father had a brother, but she was never able to track him down. She didn't have any aunts or uncles. Or even cousins.
While she grew up in a loving family consisting of her mother and step father, and three half siblings, "It was hard for me to feel like I fit anywhere," she said. "My half sisters have each other. I was six years older, and they never saw eye to eye with me."
Now with her cousin, Richard (named after her father) Treat, at her side, she said, with tears puddling up in her eyes: "This is the first time in my life I've met a Treat."
When word arrived in Hannibal in 1957 that Dick Treat had been killed, darkness ensued. The tragedy was so unfathomable that to speak of it was unthinkable. His parents, Parker and Alva Mae, collected the artifacts of their son's life, sealed them in a box and subsequently stored them away in the dark corner of the basement.
What could have been a beacon in their hour of darkness was not to be. Dick Treat's legacy, growing in his young widow's womb, would never meet his parents, his brother or his aunts and uncles still mourning Hannibal.
"He was an exceptional man and nobody could accept his death," Richard Treat said. "They couldn't even look at his belongings. It tore the family apart."
Dick's father, deep in mourning, died a year after his son's death. Agnes Treat, Parker Treat's sister, died soon thereafter. When Alva died, Dick's brother, Cornelius, took custody of the sealed box of belongings.
"When my dad died in 2001, we opened the box," Richard said. Now the family is sharing these belongings with Dick's daughter.
Dick Treat was the captain of the football team at William Jewell College in Liberty when he met his future bride, Sue Brower. She was homecoming princess. Throughout her life, Kim clung to her parents' wedding album – the only artifact she had of her father - which to her represented their happiness together.
Dick Treat is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Kansas City, rather than in the family resting place at Mount Olivet. "The Treats were a real high-end family," Dolores Treat said, and family members on both sides bellieve that his wife didn't feel accepted by the Treats. His widow's choice of burial site contributed to a rift between the two families, one that was never resolved.
Dolores Oslica was casually dating Cornelius Treat when his brother was killed. When she later married into the family, she learned the depth of the heartache that existed among the family members.
As her children grew up, she told them of their cousin who had moved away with her mother and her new husband. At times, as adults, Dolores' three children would make attempts to trace the family's path, but without success.
At the same time, Kim was making attempts to locate members of the Treat family, filling a scrapbook with correspondence to military officials and anyone she could think of who could help her find her family. In 1998, she even wrote a letter to the Hannibal Courier-Post.
Kim, in Calgary, Canada, had all but given up hope in finding her family. Richard and his siblings, in Missouri, felt equally frustrated in their searches.
In September, Dolores Treat turned to the Courier-Post for assistance. Using genealogical search engines at her disposal,the editor was able to trace Kim and Bob Cox to Calgary, Canada.
Soon there after, Richard Treat sent Kim Cox a message on Linkedon. "I just wrote a few sentences. I was very cautious," he said, not wanting to scare her away.
In the meantime, in Calgary, Kim, Bob and their daughter Victoria were watching a movie at home. Before she went to bed, Kim checked her email on her ipad, where she found the note from Richard. Her instinct was to immediately respond, but her family urged her to use caution.
They did a little Google searching on their own, looking for indications that the email was legitimate. Then Kim responded.
"Yes, I am Kimberly Treat," she wrote.
"I was overwhelmed," Richard said. "That sealed the deal."
The following Sunday night, they talked on the telephone for an hour.
"Two months later, here we are," Kim said, in Hannibal.