Until recently, Valda Rotolo's only up close glimpse of her half brother Joe was when his mother was seven months pregnant
Fast forward 45 years and Rotolo, a Victim/Witness Coordinator for Cecil's State's Attorney's Office, met Joe face to face.
Their shared father, Dominick, who died two decades ago, had at least six children with three different women. He was married multiple times and the pair said they may have more siblings that they hope to find and meet at some point.
Valda, 56, was born in Havre de Grace and grew up in Cecil and Harford counties. Joe, 45, was born in New Orleans.
"I've always known about Joe. I went to visit my dad in New Orleans in 1970 and Joe's mom was pregnant," she said.
Valda's sister Sonda met Joe more than 20 years ago. "I see Sonda and we talk regularly. We've developed a brother/sister bond," he said.
To confuse matters more, Joe was born with the name "Anthony" and his name was later changed.
Over the years, they had talked on the phone prior to meeting. They also exchanged a few emails. They really started to really connect about four years ago when they became friends on the social media site facebook. They can't remember who friend requested the other. But they continued over the four years commenting on each other's photos and such. That's when their rapport developed.
"At one point, he was no longer just my facebook friend. He was my brother," Valda said.
"I saw that transition too. I pretty much thought of her as my sister," said Joe.
"It shifted over time. It became real. I love him now," she said.
Joe decided to turn the friendship into a real life meeting. He acquired some "use or lose" vacation days at his job and decided to use them to visit his sister.
"We had never met face to face. She was the last living sibling that I haven't met," Joe said.
So Valda offered him an open ended invitation. He came November 1 and stayed for a few days. He visited her at her job and stayed at her home. "He didn't feel like a stranger. I was sitting at the kitchen table and just opened the door and said 'glad you're here'. Then we just sat and talked for 12 hours straight," she said.
"We found so many commonalities. We finish each other's sentences," said Valda. She also said that they have different backgrounds but you can't deny genetics. "If you heard us talk, you wouldn't know that we weren't raised together," she said. He said that meeting his sister was on his bucket list. He has made an effort to meet all of his siblings.
Since meeting, their brother/sister bond has intensified. "We have a new bond," he said. "I wish we had more time," she said.
"I think we would have met anyway. But facebook gave us an avenue," he said.
"It put the face to the name," she said.
"With facebook, you get pictures. Pictures are a great way to open the door," he said.