Reunion brightens final Father’s Day

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Thunderstorms pounded the tin roof of the run-down shed sheltering Willie Schooman and Gavin Rogers on the night two years ago that this odd couple first bonded.

Schooman was reclusive and homeless, at 53 long detached from family and snared by alcoholism.

Rogers, 30, was an adventurous youth minister raised in an upscale Houston suburb. He was homeless, too - for a few weeks, as a spiritual exercise for Lent.

Amid trash piles and lightning strikes, the two made their beds. Neither could know that their friendship would last and that Rogers would wind up as Schooman’s advocate, helping him apply for government assistance, getting him off the streets and later supervising his treatment for mouth cancer.

Schooman’s cancer is terminal. But in recent weeks, both men have been awed at how their chance meeting redeemed Schooman’s final Father’s Day last weekend.

His daughter - given for adoption as a newborn 26 years ago - contacted him in April from her North Texas home. An online search had led her to a San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1lxdbW8) report about him and Rogers.

Father and daughter reunited on Palm Sunday. They had lifetimes to catch up on and reconcile.

“He really was just very quiet” at first, Jennifer Trevino said of their first few minutes together. “I just wondered what he was thinking. And then I saw a smile and I knew he was happy.”

Schooman handed her the band the hospital had put on her wrist when she was born. He stowed it away before her departure - it bears the date and her mother’s name.

The timing, as he endures hospice care in a San Antonio nursing home, couldn’t be sweeter.

“That was a prayer come true,” Schooman said. “I prayed and, through Gavin, a miracle happened. I thought I’d never see her again.”

Child custody authorities had directed the couple to relinquish parental rights. Schooman had worked odd jobs, and both struggled to stay sober. Days after returning from the hospital, Trevino’s mother fell and broke her leg. Her parents adopted their granddaughter and she grew up in their Arlington home.

Schooman split up with Trevino’s mother and soon drifted onto the streets.

Today, Schooman sleeps under the roof of an East Side nursing home. On the hallway side of his small, dimly lit space is his roommate’s bed. The other side of the curtain is his bed, against the window.

Schooman’s oasis is a padded chair at an outdoor patio near the edge of a grassy courtyard.

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