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Her reply was the hospice staff was there to make his remaining time comfortable. He would not be alone. He would have the things he needed.

“I think so many people think that our focus is on dying, but really it is on the quality of life,” Bell said. “We try to make sure that person and their family have the very best quality of life with the time they have left.”

Haneman asked whether he could continue to smoke at the hospice. Bell assured him it would be OK.

“If he couldn’t smoke, he wasn’t going,” Terry said.

On Dec. 20, as Haneman’s friends prepared to move him to the hospice, Standifer got a call from Charles Haneman, the brother whom the women believed was dead.

Haneman, always reticent about his past, had told the women his immediate family was dead and his remaining relatives were a few cousins in New Jersey, according to Terry.

Standifer and Terry began reaching out to find any family members once it was clear Haneman didn’t have long to live. Standifer called a foundation in New Jersey named for a Vincent S. Haneman in the hope there was a connection.

“We could not stand the thought of him dying without family knowing,” Standifer said.

When Haneman’s younger brother called, Standifer explained Vincent’s condition. Haneman, a Navy veteran and retired regional director of the employment security commission for South Carolina, hadn’t spoken to his brother since 2001.

Haneman’s younger brother always assumed there would be “the call,” the message something had happened to his older brother, who had begun hitchhiking in his early 20s. The years the phone didn’t ring became the assurance his restless brother was still OK.

“The call I got, I never thought it would really happen. It brought back some memories, some good childhood memories,” Haneman said.

But also the reminder of the what was absent, of what the men did not experience.

“It just saddened me because, growing up, as a young child, I idolized him because he was my big brother,” he said. “Growing up, you had these ideas of having a family and your kids would visit with their uncle’s family … I think he had every intention of doing that growing up.”

The friendly transient was once a diligent student, fastidious in his appearance, who had a normal upbringing in a loving family, according to his brother. “It’s like you found out a whole different world about Vincent,” Standifer said.

Vincent S. Haneman III was the eldest of two adopted children of an Air Force officer and his wife, according to his brother, and the grandson of a prominent New Jersey judge, who was his namesake.

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