Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Dad located here after decades

Citizen Staff Writer



A New Mexico woman’s decadeslong search for her father ended Friday when she saw him for the first time since 1971 – in a nursing home here.

Amelia Mendivil, 59, had sought 86-year-old Walter DuMoulin since 1984.

“It’s just like a miracle,” she said. “We just assumed he was dead. I couldn’t believe he was in front of me.

“It’s still like it’s not really true,” she said.

Mendivil used the online Social Security Death Index to attempt to track her father, but his name never turned up.

She finally found his name using a different Internet search and contacted the Tucson Police Department to file a missing persons report.

The report of a person missing for more than three decades caught the attention of Michele Shaw, a crime analyst in the police special investigations unit.

Mendivil and her sister, 61-year-old Judy Carter, had lost touch with their father when the women moved from their hometown of Ajo after he divorced their mother.

The father of two who taught his daughters how to play chess and love classical music was struggling with alcoholism and apparently moved to Tucson, where he eventually became homeless.

A World War II veteran, DuMoulin had been seen at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, but the federal Health Insurance Privacy Protection Act prevented hospital officials from releasing information on his whereabouts to Mendivil.

Eventually, DuMoulin was placed in a Tucson-area group home for elderly men, then moved to Villa Campana Healthcare, a nursing home near St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Mendivil said the social worker there told her that everyone felt sorry for DuMoulin because he never had visitors.

Shaw started making phone calls when the report landed on her desk and a check of DuMoulin’s last known address turned up no additional information.

A phone call to the VA confirmed that DuMoulin had been a patient there and a second call to the hospital’s police department turned up the name of the group home DuMoulin had lived in.

Officials at that home remembered DuMoulin and gave Shaw a list of possible nursing facilities where he might be staying.

Villa Campana was fourth on the list of possible homes, she said.

“I was just dumfounded,” Shaw said. “I really don’t think I did something extraordinary except make some phone calls and make some good connections.

“It’s so much fun to be a part of this,” she said. “Police work isn’t always sunshine and roses.”

The first thing that Carter said to her father when she saw him Tuesday afternoon was, “Hi, dad. I’m not skinny anymore.”

Carter was 23 and Mendivil was 21 when they last saw their father.

DuMoulin didn’t recognize his daughters, but their voices brought back memories.

When asked if he could recall helping Mendivil with homework, DuMoulin said it took him a couple of years to realize that she was tricking him into doing her homework in its entirety.

The man who had no visitors a few weeks ago now has a family of two daughters, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Four of the grandchildren live in Tucson, Mendivil said.

Asked if he was expecting to have such a large family, DuMoulin said of his daughters, “knowing these two, yeah.”

He said finding his daughters was “wonderful, believe me.”

DuMoulin said he tried to track down his daughters in 2005, but a phone call to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department proved fruitless because Mendivil had remarried and changed her name.

Despite finding his family again, DuMoulin likes where he lives and has no plans to live with his daughters in New Mexico near Silver City.

Carter said she plans to move to Tucson when she retires in a year and both sisters plan to make the four-hour trip as frequently as possible to visit their newly found father.

“We just lost our mom six years ago; she would have been happy to see him too,” Carter said. “We’ve tried off and on to find him and we just thought he was lost forever. I just wanted him to know how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren he has and that we’re not going to lose him again.”

‘Lost forever’ no more; father, daughters reunited after 25 years

‘I was just dumbfounded. I really don’t think I did something extraordinary except make some phone calls and make some good connections.’

Michele Shaw,

a crime analyst in the police special investigations unit who found Walter DuMoulin

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