- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2017

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - When Ron Akins pulled in to the Rodeway Inn on Muskogee Avenue in Tahlequah on Feb. 11, all he knew was that he would meet his long-lost brother of 51 years - not that that brother would be waiting for him just inside the hotel.

An anxious Mark Bolding stood inside the lobby as Akins drove into the canopy-covered entrance. Nervously standing in a corner, attempting to stay out of sight, Bolding’s intent was to wait until his brother walked up to the front desk before greeting him. At the last second, he couldn’t take the suspense and rushed outside to see his sibling.

“It was unbearable,” Bolding said. “He wasn’t coming in, so I just had to go out and get it done.”

As he walked up to him, he also couldn’t help but begin teasing his younger brother.

“Excuse me sir - you’re not allowed to park on this property,” Bolding joked, as he saw Akins for the first time.

The two embraced before eyeing each other up and down.

“You look too much like me,” said Bolding, chuckling. “Didn’t think this town could handle two ugly guys.”

At around the age of three, Bolding was given up for adoption by his birth mother.

Bolding said he holds no ill will toward his birth family, and now speaks with his mom every day.

“I don’t blame my real mother for what she had to do,” he said. “She did what she thought was best. She gave me up to save my life, because I was being abused. If I would have stayed with my real mother, who knows what type of person I’d turn out to be, or if I’d still be alive. Bottom line is, I am who I am today because of this adoption.”

After several years in different foster homes, when Bolding was 7, he was adopted by Tahlequah’s then Chief of Police Walter “Gene” Bolding and his wife Minnie, the Tahlequah Daily Press (https://bit.ly/2l9ok2t ) reported. The Boldings attempted to use their access to law enforcement resources to help find his birth parents, to no avail.

“My adopted mother - she loved me like I was one of her own kids,” Bolding said. “They’re still my parents - they raised me and have given me a great life. And my real mother - she has told me numerous times she is absolutely grateful that I had the mother that I had as I was growing up.”

Bolding said he wasn’t even sure he had a brother until Search Squad, a locator group for adoptees, told him.

Miles away in Utah, Akins grew up always knowing he had a brother somewhere, but Bolding changed his name to Mark when he was 7, making it impossible to find him under his birth name, Eugene Alfred Akins Jr. IV.

“I’ve only had one picture of him, but when I was growing up I had a vague memory of playing in a room with him,” Akins said. “I knew he was always there, I just couldn’t find him.”

Akins said he had almost given up on finding his lost brother, until one day in early February, when he received a Facebook message from Bolding.

After 51 years of no contact, the two spoke with each other on the phone, leaving no doubt they were kin.

“He called me by my birth name, which I never went by,” Bolding said. “He asked, ‘Is this Eugene?’ and I was kind of in shock at that point.”

Bolding now lives in Keys with his fiance Lori Everly, and works as a truck driver for J&J; Trucking. Akins lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife Carissa Berry, and works as a journeyman electrician.

Both brothers said they never thought they would see each other again.

“What I found was ironic about it - Mark lived in Arizona for 18 years and his brother was just right next door in New Mexico,” Everly said. “They never even knew.”

The two couples spent Saturday and Sunday in Tahlequah getting to know one another.

“They act just alike,” Everly said. “It was kind of crazy to see - being with Mark for two years and then seeing another man - they’re both so much the same.”

Bolding said it was like looking in a mirror.

“We’re both practically identical in attitude,” he said. “You carry on personal traits of people when you’re around them, but with us - the way we act - it wasn’t something that we picked up from one another - it’s in our blood.”

The brothers’ weekend consisted of swimming, serving Akins an Oklahoma dinner and even getting matching tattoos (Akins‘ first). The tattoo was a depiction of a “bro handshake,” with the words, “brothers - never apart.”

“It meant a lot to him and I thought about it, and realized it meant a lot to me,” Akins said. “We did it, because of the love that have for each other - that’s always been there.”

Bolding said when he discovered his lost mother and brother, the two had personal issues of their own, and that his reconnection with them helped improve their relationship.

“I’m a peacemaker,” he said. “Because of this, I’ve talked to my mother and my brother - now they’re back to talking and telling each other “I love you.” Before I’m done on this earth, maybe my purpose is to bring them all back together - and I’ll do it.”

Bolding said his mother is just grateful she’s finally getting her kids back.

“It was probably the hardest thing she ever had to do,” Akins said. “It’s not natural for a mother to give up her kid, but under the circumstances, she felt it was best for his safety.”

Bolding has already scheduled a visit with his birth mother, and said he expects it to be as joyous as meeting his brother.

The two brothers said they plan to stay connected, no matter the distance between them.

“It was a lovely time,” Akins said. “We got to bond a little bit, and I’m hoping to do more of that with him as we proceed in life, because we don’t have many years left. I’m blessed that I got to meet him and look forward to spending a lot more time with him - we’ve got 50 years to make up.”

___

Information from: Tahlequah Daily Press, https://www.tahlequahdaailypress.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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