After 80 years, siblings who were separated after their parents’ deaths are reunited – “No one will ever take you away from me again.”

Many families were shattered as a result of the World Wars. Bill Stewart and Beryl Johnson have one of these heartbreaking stories. The siblings were torn apart and have now been reunited after eighty years…
Bill Stewart and Beryl Johnson were orphaned when their father, Frank Stewart, was killed in the SS Iron Crown during the Second World War in June 1942, about 100 kilometers off Victoria’s south coast.
The shipwreck claimed the lives of 38 people on board. “It was a shock; I no longer had a father or a mother.” “I was 11 years old at the time,” Bill Stewart recalls.

Because the children’s mothers had died years before, they were already placed in an orphanage while their father was at sea. When their father died and the children were declared orphans, Bill was sent to a Boys Home in Adelaide, and his sister was adopted.

During those years, it was thought that orphans should have a “clean break” from any remaining family members, including siblings, so no information about the other was relayed.
Bill Stewart, 91, still gets upset thinking about their goodbye. “We wrapped our arms around each other and cried our eyes out.” “I was told to leave, and I never saw Beryl again,” he says.

While Beryl remained in Adelaide, her brother had relocated to Sydney in order to start over.
He never forgot about his sister, though.

“The two of us were looking for each other but received no assistance from the orphanage.” “Every year, I’d return to Adelaide in search of Beryl,” Bill explained.

Beryl had similar problems.
“I tried for years and couldn’t find any information about Bill’s whereabouts or where he’d gone. “I gave up and started thinking he was dead, but in my mind, I always thought we’d find each other one day,” Beryl explained.

All of that changed in April 2019, when the remains of the SS Iron Crown were discovered by the Hobart-based CSIRO research vessel Investigator. A memorial service was held for the families of the 38 people who died on board.

“On Merchant Navy Day, more than 50 descendants of the Iron Crown’s crew gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne for the memorial event,” said Emily Jateff of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Bill was contacted by Kylie Watson, a distant relative who had attended the memorial. Watson was also a novice when it came to locating missing family members. She immediately started looking for Beryl, even looking through old newspaper articles for traces of her.

Her investigation led her to believe that Beryl was still in Adelaide. As a result, they published notices in local papers asking anyone who knew Beryl Johnson, formerly Beryl Stewart, to come forward.
“That same Sunday, my granddaughter called to tell me she had wonderful news about Beryl — that she was alive and would call me in 10 minutes,” Bill explained.

“I cried when I found out Billy was alive,” Beryl said. “It was an incredible voice that I never expected to hear again.” “I’ve reclaimed my life, which was once filled with longing and wanting,” she added.
Last year, Bill finally paid a visit to his sister in Adelaide. But they’ve been talking on the phone every day since they reconnected.

“I couldn’t get into Bill’s arms fast enough; we just hugged each other and couldn’t let go,” Beryl said of their encounter. “I adore him, and it’s a miracle, in my opinion, that we found each other after nearly 80 years,” she added.

Bill later narrated that when he finally met his little sister, he held her in his arms, cried a little, and told her, “No one’s ever going to take you away from me again.”
Both siblings are discovering new meaning in their lives. “Now that Bill is back in my life,” Beryl said, “I just don’t want it to end.” They call each other every day at 8 a.m. and plan to spend major holidays like Christmas together.
“I hope we can continue to love and support one another for as long as we can,” Beryl said.

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After 80 years, siblings who were separated after their parents’ deaths are reunited – “No one will ever take you away from me again.”
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