BATON ROUGE, La. - More than 45 years ago, Eddie Norwood Jr. of Lake Wylie, S.C., found out he had a brother living just a few blocks away, but before the two could get acquainted, life took them in different directions.
Norwood, then 18, moved to Chicago, where he felt he would have a chance to succeed and create a life for himself. His brother, 11-year-old Reggie Norman of Bossier City, La., remained in their hometown of Benton Harbor, Mich., until he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school.
Although they've talked on the phone a few times over the years, their busy lives kept them apart until their recent reunion in Baton Rouge, which carried over to the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.
With help from Norwood's daughter, Toya Washington, who gave him all of the necessary information, Norman was to make the four-hour trip to the Baton Rouge River Center to see his brother in person for the first time in nearly five decades.
"It's been inspiring," said Norwood, who made his first USBC Open Championships appearance. "After such a lengthy time apart, we finally get to see each other. We've talked on the phone, but nothing beats seeing my brother in person. We shared the longest embrace. My daughter made sure Reggie had the information, and she stayed on me about getting in contact with him. This was a great opportunity for us to get together."
The long road to the reunion began a few years ago when Norman's older sister, Pam, spotted Norwood's name on Facebook. They began using the site as a vehicle for communication, but also started exchanging emails regularly.
The last time the two brothers spoke before the Facebook family reunion was 2001, when tragedy brought them together over the phone. That was when Norwood had to track down his brother to share the news of their father's death.
"I first spoke with him when our dad died," Norman said. "Of course, we talked for a minute then. But when you talk to someone over the phone when you're receiving bad news, it's not the best thing in the world. I was like, 'oh wow' when I heard that. Then, I lost contact with him again."
Since they parted ways in Benton Harbor so many years ago, both brothers have led productive lives filled with great accomplishments and memories.
Norwood, who now is 67 and retired, quickly made his mark in The Windy City in the construction field as a laborer, laborer foreman, carpenter and carpenter foreman. He got married in 1966, but his wife passed away 11 years later, leaving him to raise three children, Toya, Eddie III and Corey, on his own. As he moved through life, he continued to think about his own brother and where he might be.
Meanwhile, Norman, now 60, spent 26 years on active duty, retiring in 1995 as a Master Sergeant. His tours of duty included stops in Vietnam and Thailand, and he spent the better part of his years in Southeast Asia. He, too, got married and has been for 39 years. He and his wife, Kham, have three children together, Ladda, Precious and Faith.
With their working days behind them and a variety of communication tools at their disposal, the two are excited about having the chance to share the stories of their lives as well as make more memories together.
"We haven't talked that extensively yet," said Norwood, who flies radio controlled planes and rides his custom chopper in his spare time. "This is the first step. Honestly, this is the longest amount of time that we've ever spent together. It's a process, and we'll take it one day at a time. I'm looking forward to continuing and growing our relationship."
Even though the two went years without seeing one another, they never stopped trying, even when the situation looked bleak.
"I didn't think I would ever see him again," said Norman, who worked in electronics and communication during his time in the military. "I just thought it wouldn't happen, but it's a small world. Facebook works, and unless you read an obituary, keep looking."
Despite the excitement that surrounded his inaugural Open Championships campaign, Norwood still had to compose himself and complete his nine games of competition. He shot 498 in doubles, 419 in team and 387 in singles for a 1,304 all-events total.
Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.