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Hoping for a Father’s Day reunion

Her father lost contact 18 years ago – she may have lived in Sierra Vista, married here recently


Editor’s note: Kim Wood, editor of The Expositor newspaper in Sparta, Tenn., believes the stepdaughter she’s been trying to find for years is living in southern Arizona. With Father’s Day approaching, Wood hopes she can reunite Jessyca Leigh Wood with her father, Richard, who hasn’t seen Jessyca since she was 3 years old.

Tucked away in a special place at our house is a picture (at right) of a curly-headed, 3-year-old girl, with strawberry blond hair and ears just like her father’s.

His last image of her was laughter and excitement as he took her to the park. Now, she cannot be found, or at least to the best of our searching abilities.

Jessyca Leigh Wood turned 21 years old May 8. She has been an important part of my household for several years, although her father and I have never been graced with her physical presence.

I am not sure if this column will make any difference in our efforts to search for Jessyca, but maybe someone will read this column and recognize her name.

The roads of life take unexpected turns, and separation from our children is not always by choice. Jessyca is now a grown woman, much different from the vivacious 3-year-old her father adored. Her memory has lingered in his heart for almost 18 years. How do I know this? I am his wife.

Jessyca was born May 8, 1982, in Baton Rouge, La. Her mother and father had met at a radio station where they both worked. They were married, and Jessyca was born soon thereafter. However, Jessyca’s mother and father, Phillip Richard Wood, separated in 1985, and he came to Tennessee to live with his parents.

Within three to four months after his arrival in Sparta, Tenn., Phillip had lost all contact with Jessyca. He and I made attempts, through a friend who was an attorney, to search for Jessyca. We were unsuccessful.

Time quickly passed, and I hoped and prayed one day I could find Jessyca. Through my connections with local law enforcement, I received help searching public records throughout the United States, but to no avail. I never gave up. One day, I knew, I would find Jessyca, and now I believe I am closer than I have ever been before.

I am the editor of my hometown newspaper. I have lived in Sparta, Tenn., my entire life, and whenever I need help, the readers are always ready to lend their assistance. On Mother’s Day, I wrote my personal column for the newspaper about searching for Jessyca. I hoped someone might have some new ideas.

The day after the column was published, I received a phone call from a woman who told me she might have some information. She was an avid Internet searcher, and she had accessed some files where she found Jessyca L. Wood had married Harley D. Murray in Tucson, Ariz., and this Jessyca was the exact same age our Jessyca would have been at that time.

I was overwhelmed. I knew this might not lead anywhere, but I had to keep the faith. At first, I was afraid to pursue the lead. I was so afraid of running into a brick wall. However, I soon found there were angels working on my side. I finally traced the marriage license information to the Tucson Citizen’s public records file.

My heart skipped a beat the night I saw those names in print on their Web site. I searched for the name of the staff writer who complied the information. I quickly e-mailed Jennie Faries, wondering if I would hear any response.

Within 48 hours, Jennie had responded to my e-mail. We e-mailed each other back and forth for about two days. Jennie kept digging deeper and deeper, and on May 28, she e-mailed me with a piece of information that gave me hope.

Jennie had searched Reunion.com. She found a Jessyca Wood had graduated from Buena High School in Sierra Vista, class of 2000, birth date 5/8/82.

As soon as I read the e-mail, I screamed for joy. Was this just coincidence, or was it really that curly-headed little girl I had been searching for all these years?

All I have ever wanted for the past 18 years is to see this beautiful child reunited with her father. I have dreamed of giving him this wonderful gift for Father’s Day, and now I can only hope I am one step closer to reality.

Jessyca, if you should happen to read this column, please know that your dad loves you very much.

He is a good man and is extremely loved in Sparta, Tenn. When he was in radio and newspapers here for almost 15 years, he told the public about you and wrote columns about you in the newspaper.

Jessyca, you also have two half-sisters from your dad’s first marriage, Angie and Laurie, who are both in their early 30s. Laurie tried to find you several years ago, but she was never successful.

Your dad and I have been waiting and hoping for a strawberry blond-headed girl to come knocking at our door.

If Jessyca Leigh Wood can be found, I want her to contact me and come back to our family.

If anyone has any information, please contact: Kim Wood, (931) 836-3284; e-mail: editor1@blomand.net.

The following are excerpts from Kim Wood’s correspondence with Jennie Faries of the Tucson Citizen library who assisted Woods in her information search. Because of her other responsibilities, Faries is not able to undertake such research for the general public.

Wood: Phil and I have been together for about 18 years, and every day I used to wonder what it would be like to not know where your children were.

I have lived here my entire life, and the people of the community simply fell in love with Phil (Woody) when he moved here. They didn’t realize he had a daughter he couldn’t find.

Faries: After I wrote to you this morning I decided to take a look at Reunion.com, just out of curiosity. I found a Jessyca Wood who graduated from Buena High School in Sierra Vista (south of Tucson), class of 2000, 21 years old, birth date 5/8/1982. I couldn’t get any more information, but this may be the lead you’re looking for.

Wood: All I could say is OH, MY GOD! Please excuse me! My son, Jarrod, is our compositor, and when I just read your e-mail, I just screamed, and he thought something was wrong. I said, “She has found her!” That is her birth date. This cannot be coincidence!

Faries: I’ve hit a brick wall. It is possible to send a message through the alumni site, but that’s assuming that the e-mail address in their file is current. By the looks of it, it was quite a while ago that she signed up and she included no personal information at all.


CUTLINE: Kim and Phillip Richard Wood

CUTLINE: This is how Jessyca Leigh Wood looked in 1985, when her father last saw her.

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