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Amateur genealogist helps stranger unite with family

BROOKLYN (WKOW) -- For more than three decades, Rod Hobbs had been searching for his biological father. He even hired private investigators and DNA experts.

"I go about my life, but if I could do anything just to know," explains the Virginia resident.

Last year, Hobbs' search led him to Brian Richards. The Brooklyn resident reached out to Hobbs while searching for information for his adopted daughter. There ended up being no connection between the two families. Still, Richards was touched by Hobbs' story.

"I was kind of disgusted he had spent a lot of money trying to find people to help him. I said, 'Well, I'll help'," says the retired elevator mechanic.

Richards is an avid amateur genealogist. He planted some seeds over the course of six months on sites like 'Ancestry' and '23andMe'. Eventually he inched closer to solving the mystery.

"At that point, I knew I had six boys. One of them was his dad," Richards explains of one of the pivotal moments in the search.

After reaching out to the family of the prospective matches, Hobbs received a message that changed his life.

"I get a message on Facebook Messenger, 'Call me. Is your mom's name Barbara?'," remembers Hobbs. "So, my heart sinks."

DNA tests confirmed that Rod had found his father, Robert Kopelakis. He also learned he now had five siblings.

"Not only is he there. He's alive and well. I have this huge family, and they have accepted me like I've always been there," smiles Hobbs.

Richards beamed when he saw video of the family's first meeting.

"It was probably as if I'd found my own father. I had put so much into this."

Hobbs has spent the past eight months making up for lost time with his family. Still, a retired elevator mechanic from Wisconsin is never far from his mind.

"Every day that I wake up, I have a family and I have a father and I have all these brothers and sisters because of that man."

Richards has not accepted any payment for his help. He says his reward is a heartfelt thanks from a new friend.

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