Peter Hoffman had always wanted a brother. Late one recent Friday night he discovered that he has five.
"I was in bed, just about asleep, when the phone rang," recalled Hoffman, a 43-year-old personnel management specialist with the Environmental Protection Agency. "It was my twin sister calling all the way from Sabetha, Kan., and she was all excited."
In a development that could have come straight from a TV a show, Hoffman's sister Ann had just gottern a call from a man who claimed to be her long-lost brother. He had been searching for his twin siblings for 40 years and had finally tracked down Ann in her Kansas home.
The Hoffman twins had known since grammar school that they had been adopted in infancy by a childless New York couple. But they had been unaware of the whereabouts of other family members until 1971.
In settling their adoptive father's estate after his death, they had come upon their adoption documents and discovered that they came from a family of seven children. The papers also revealed Hoffman's original name - Billy Dean Huskey.
"Because the adoption papers said we had been abandoned, we assumed that we were probably illegitimate," said Hoffman, who lives in Alexandria with his wife and three sons. "Neither of us had any strong desire to look up our family because we figured they probably had a new life to head and we did, too."
So Hoffman had mixed emotions when his brother Damen Huskey called him late that same Friday night.
"Here he was, so excited, calling me Billy Dean," Hoffman shrugged. "I still considered my self a Hoffman, not a Huskey, and I was very conservative and very skeptical."
Damen Huskey, the 57-year-old sheriff of Rutherford County, North Carolina, was calling from Youngstown, Ohio, where he had finally located his twin siblings' whereabouts after traveling half way across the country.
So excited he couldn't eat, Huskey announced his intention to drive to Alexandira immediately to see his long-lost brother.
"o Alexandria immediately to see his long-lost brother.
"ouldn't have just picked me out of a phone book," Hoffman noted. "I wanted to see what was going on, so I told him to come on over."
When another brother, Dan Huskey, called the next morning from North Carolina to say he couldn't wait to see his little brother and wanted to fly up right away, Hoffman steeled himself and prepared for his worst expectations - that the callers were involved in some sort of con scheme.
About five hours later, Hoffman found himself at National Airport, waiting tensely for the brother he had never known.
"I was supposed to recognize them by Dan's wife Frieda's red-and-white pants suit," Hoffman recalled. "But it didn't take a pants suit to recognize my brother.
"When I saw them I said, 'My God, it's Ann made over,' because his resemblance to my sister was so striking. He grabbed me right away because he said I looked just like our third brother Max.
"All my fearful emotions just disappeared right away," Hoffman grinned. "I kept saying over and over, 'This is real, it's not a dream, it's not a hoax'."
The reunited brothers returned to Hoffman's home and talked nonstop until Damen and his wife Marjorie arrived late that afternoon. Damen and Dan Huskey filled their youngest brother in on his early life and told him stories about their parents.The brothers made plans for a family reunion in North Carolina at the end of the summer.
"I found out that my real mother died when my sister and I were babies," explained Hoffman, whose adoptive mother died in 1962. "We were the youngest of seven children, and our father was a poor North Carolina sharecropper who died in 1951.
"There was no way they could care for us with five other boys, so we were put in a foster home. When my sister was about a year old she had a skin problem and a bad foot and was sent off to a New York doctor. She was adopted by the Hoffmans in New York, who sent for me when they found she had a twin."
Dan and Damen Huskey used to visit the twins when the infants were still in the foster home in North Carolina.
Damen Huskey had been wondering about the lost Huskey twins for 40 years, but it wasn't until his wife challenged him to find his siblings that he began to seriously hunt for his sister and brother.
"As a sheriff I'd done detective work, so it took us about a week to find them," Huskey said. "All we had to go on was the adopted parents' names, Max and Olive Hoffman, from the town of Larchmont, N.Y."
With this slim scrap of information and a United States map, the Huskeys got in their car and headed toward New York. Their whirlwind investigation included stops at the land records office and the school records department, studies of high school yearbooks and knocking on dozens of New York doors.
On a tip from a former high school classmate of the Hoffmans, they were sent to their sister's home in Michigan, only to find they had uncovered the wrong Hoffman. Undaunted, they made several more calls and discovered their sister, Ann Hoffman Lancaster, in Kansas.
Lancaster told the Huskeys that her twin brother, Peter, was living in Alexandria. Although they couldn't reach him by phone, the Huskeys got in their car and drove toward Virginia anyway. They finally reached Hoffman from a rest stop in Youngstown, Ohio.
"It was a great feeling," Damen Huskey laughed. "It was mightly good to finally get the family together again."
For Hoffman's twin sister Ann Hoffman Lancaster, the reunion came at a particularly opportune time. Recently divorced, Lancaster had been planning to move to Alexandria to be near her twin brother. When the Huskeys came into the picture, she packed up her four children and moved to join them in North Carolina.