updated 10/31/2006 12:54:02 PM ET 2006-10-31T17:54:02

Separated by hundreds of miles and misinformation, a brother and sister who each believed the other was dead have been reunited after 47 years.

"For years and years, I dreamed about him. I thought he was dead and he thought I was dead," Elneda Mallory said of younger brother Richard Robinson. "It was quite a shock, a happy shock" to learn he was alive.

Elneda, an 81-year-old retired nurse in Shoreline, had thought she was the last of nine siblings after her brother Joseph died two years ago.

Richard and another brother, Walter Robinson, were declared legally dead years ago by their older brother, Wilbur Robinson Jr., who was trying to transfer the deed to the old family home in Louisiana.

But 73-year-old Richard, a former sheet-metal worker, was living 1,200 miles away in Palmdale, Calif.

While Richard was in the Navy, Elneda said she lost contact with him, and after many years assumed he'd died.

'I just couldn't believe it'
Richard was discharged and tried to find his sister in the late 1960s.

He traveled to their childhood home in Lake Charles, La., and Los Angeles, but found nothing. Lawyers and private investigators he hired also came back empty. Letters he sent to Elneda's former house in Seattle weren't forwarded to her Shoreline address. They returned, unopened

"I thought I was the only one left, but the good Lord showed me different," Richard said in a phone interview. "After all these years, I just couldn't believe it myself."

The two got unexpected help from Margaret Galasso of Spring Hill, Fla., who has a home-based business finding heirs to unclaimed money or property.

Galasso three years ago discovered $65,000 in unclaimed money that was part of Wilbur Robinson's estate.

Wilbur died in southern California in 1996. Before his death he hired a Beverly Hills attorney to be the executor and trustee of his estate, Galasso said.

The attorney advised him to declare his two brothers, Walter and Richard, legally dead as a first step toward transferring the deed on the family home in Lake Charles to Wilbur, Elneda and Joseph.

While researching Wilbur's estate, Galasso learned Wilbur's attorney had been disbarred in 2000 for several acts of misconduct.

Los Angeles County officials are now investigating how the estate was handled, Galasso said, after up to $200,000 in cash and property was taken, including antique guns and coin and stamp collections.

'He's been alive all these years'
Meanwhile, Galasso searched death certificates and databases but couldn't find evidence that either Walter or Richard had died.

After obtaining a telephone number for Richard, she called and asked him about his past.

"The turning point for me was when he told me what street he lived on in Lake Charles. I was like, 'Oh, my God, it's him!'" Galasso said. "I was flabbergasted this guy is alive and he's been alive all these years."

Galasso isn't sure whether Walter, who would be 79, is still alive. But she tracked down Elneda a few weeks ago and was able to tell Richard and his sister about each other.

Since then the two talk at least once a day, getting to know each other again.

"I found my family again. All I want to do is send all my blessings to her. I love her very much and I'll stay close to her, that's my promise," Richard said.

Elneda hopes to visit Richard after Thanksgiving, and he plans to come to Washington state next year.

"I'm just living in another world, I'm so happy. I'm rejoicing," said Elneda, who on Nov. 4 will celebrate 50 years of marriage. "I really want to see him bad. And he wants to see me."

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