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Interview With Richard Thomas And Guests of "It's A Miracle"

Aired December 24, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, did God play a role in these inspiring emotional stories? A medallion from a stranger brings a man's wife out of a coma.
A man saves a mother and her two children from a near fatal car crash, nearly one year to the day after he almost died in a crash at the same stop.

And a message of love delivered from father to son 50 years after the father's death.

Joining us tonight real people sharing their amazing but true experiences from the PAX TV show "It's a Miracle." Plus, the program's host, Emmy's winner Richard Thomas. They say God works in mysterious ways. We've got stories that will get you thinking and maybe making you believers, too. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We always welcome Richard Thomas, the host of PAX-TV's "It's a Miracle." It airs Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. It's one of the hit shows on PAX TV. We did it the last time and it did very, very well and we're very glad to welcome you back.


KING: Your affiliation for the show is you've been its host, right?

THOMAS: I've been its host for five years now. We're about halfway through our fifth season. We started with nine episodes to see how it went. And five years later it's still doing fine.

KING: Did you like the idea right away when it came to you?

THOMAS: I thought it was a great idea. But I wasn't sure if anybody else would be interested. I always thought, Well, does anybody want to see all this good news, you know? Because it's -- it's...

KING: It is uplifting.

THOMAS: Yes, it's uplifting and I thought, Well, you know, it's a pretty cynical business. The world can be a bit on the cynical side. But, you know, people rallied to it. And after -- after September 11, there was a great ground swell for the show, because people do want to know that good stuff is happening out there. KING: Do you miss appearing on episodic television?

THOMAS: I'm doing it now. I just started a new show for PAX this season.

KING: Really?

THOMAS: Yes. A dramatic show. It's been 30 years since I -- since we did the "Waltons."

KING: Our little Richard is growing up.

THOMAS: Growing up, man.

KING: By definition, before we start meeting these individuals and their extraordinary stories, what to you is a miracle?

THOMAS: To me, a miracle is the most wonderful unexpected thing that can happen. The thing that you hope for most that you least expect to happen. The great surprises in life that come your way. But I let the people whose stories these are define what a miracle is.

KING: Most are unexplainable?

THOMAS: Yes, inexplicable, and when you even have doctors and scientists talking about it, it's really something

KING: OK, let's begin with the story of Joe and Theresa Gomes. They join us from Sacramento.

In the first tape we're going to show you tonight is the story of Theresa and Joseph, as we said. Theresa was pregnant with twins, had to have is a C-section. The babies were OK, but she had major problems right after delivery. Watch this tape.


THOMAS (voice-over): And then without warning, Theresa's heart flatlined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feel for pulse.

That a young healthy 30 something-year-old woman to have her heart stop on the table, something I had never been exposed to before.

Just want to tell you some things. I know it's been a while.

JOE GOMES, FATHER: He said, Joe, there's been some complications. She's lost a lot of blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another complication is that Theresa's heart has stopped.


THOMAS: By the time Dr. Gilbert returned to the OR, Theresa's vital signs had stabilized.

Theresa was alive, but in critical condition. And then, suddenly, Theresa's heart flatlined for a second time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No pulse. No pulse.


KING: Joe Gomes, do we know what caused this?

J. GOMES: Yes, we sure do. It was a condition called placenta procreta (ph). And evidently that's when the placenta grows through the uterine lining and attaches itself to whatever it wants to attach itself to.

And so when they decided to -- well, when the babies were pulled, it was a Cesarean section, evidently some other things came with it. From there, she just started bleeding.

KING: Did you know you were in big trouble, Theresa?

THERESA GOMES, MOTHER: Well, we knew there was going to be some complications. And then they even told me that there could -- the possibility be of an emergency hysterectomy but they were hoping for the best and that that wouldn't happen.

KING: Joe, you then do what? You go to a hospital chapel?

J. GOMES: Yes. I made -- course, my whole family congregated in the ICU waiting room, where Theresa was at. And the doctor in charge came down and pretty much told us that Theresa was not going survive the night. And so I went down to the chapel like I had been doing for most of the afternoon, and at that point there was a service going on. At the end of the service, the priest asked if there was anybody who needed prayers.

Of course, I stood up and I went through the episode very shortly and I asked the congregation to pray for my family and my children and my wife. And after the service was over, two ladies approached me and one of them had a medallion in her hand and she told me that this medallion produced three miracles. It was going to produce a fourth for me.

And from there, later on that afternoon I took it to my wife's bedside. I pressed it to her forehead and said the prayer that the lady asked me to say which was, Dance the Lord Jesus Christ to come in and, through divine intervention, create a healing miracle. And mind you, this is like hours after the doctor had told me my wife was not going to survive the night. And at that moment my wife's eyes opened up.

So, that's a short version of it.

KING: Was she in a coma-like position?

J. GOMES: She was in a coma. She was -- she was in a coma. KING: Is this explainable, Richard?

THOMAS: Well, it's certainly explainable if the miracle happened through the interception of that medallion. I have a question. What did you do with it? Did you give it back to the lady that had given it to you? Did you pass it on to someone else?

J. GOMES: Yes. The next morning my wife was still alive, of course, and I was just totally elated, as you might expect.

I was down, had my first cup of coffee, about 8:00 in the morning. And there was a gentleman there in the cafeteria, who I had got to talking with. He explained to me his wife was going to die that day. I told him that didn't have to happen. And so I ended up giving the medallion to him.

KING: And do you know what happened?

J. GOMES: I don't know what happened. I don't know what happened. But, you know, I know if he believes in miracles like I do, I wouldn't be surprised if he's walking around right now with his wife.

T. GOMES: That's right.

KING: How has this changed you, Joe?

J. GOMES: Well, I cry a lot more. I cry a lot more. I'm a lot more patient. I don't take days for granted. I don't take an "I love you" for granted. I don't take holding my wife's hand for granted any more.

KING: Theresa, how's your health?

T. GOMES: It's wonderful, Larry. I had a corrective surgery to repair some problems that I had about four months after the surgery, but ever since then I have been doing fine. Back to normal.

KING: When this happened, Joe, what did the doctors say? I mean after the medallion and she wakes up and she gets -- she's on the road to recovery and they said she wouldn't last the night, What do they say?

J. GOMES: You know, the doctor that actually called my family together and gave us the news that she was probably going to die and that if she did happen to survive the night, she was going to have brain damage. If she didn't have brain damage within a week, because of the amount of transfusions, she was going to die from a thing called adult respiratory -- ARDS -- adult respiratory

T. GOMES: Distress syndrome.

J. GOMES: Distress syndrome.

And, actually I saw him in the parking lot about three or four months later, because I make like a monthly trip to Mercy San Juan, where my wife actually gave birth. And I explained to him, I says, You know, that diagnosis you made was incorrect. But I did it with a smile.

So he was, I think all the other doctors that were involved with the operation...

KING: Were they as impressed as you were?

J. GOMES: Yes.

KING: Now the twin girls, as we understand it, Theresa, were taken to intensive care. One just weighed over one pound and Jamie (ph) was three pounds, one ounce. Is that right?

T. GOMES: That's exactly correct, yes.

KING: How are they now?

T. GOMES: They're doing great. Emily (ph), she's the smaller one. She's just kind of petite, very, very small. And Jamie's (ph) just normal size. But they're doing great.

KING: Well, I thank you both very much, Joe and Theresa. I wish you continued good luck. Hope those girls grow up well. Hope this doesn't have to happen again ever, and that medallions come true and dreams can come true and miracles can happen.

J. GOMES: They sure do.

T. GOMES: Thank you very much.

KING: Joe Gomes and Theresa Gomes from Sacramento.

When we come back the story of a man who had an injury that changed his life and he began helping others.

We're with Richard Thomas. It's a miracle. Don't go away.


THOMAS (voice-over): Today, Rob is a close friend to Vicki and her family. While it took a year and two near tragedies to bring them together, the experience they share taught them all the lesson of a lifetime.



KING: We're joined by Richard Thomas, the award winning actor and host of "It's a Miracle" that airs every Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. And we're looking at miracles, and we're joined in Memphis, Tennessee, by Rob Gingery and Vicki O'Briant. Rob saved Vicki and her daughter from an accident. And here is the story

Rob Gingery life was not going to well. He was living with reckless abandon. One day he was racing around on a motorcycle at over 100 miles an hour and was in a serious accident. He recovered from a serious blood clot and life changed. Watch.


ROB GINGERY, RESCUED VICKI O'BRIANT: I had a whole new perception, a whole new feeling inside. I felt clean. This wreck was the best bad thing that ever happened to me, because it was a reality check. Sobered me up, straightened me up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there was still one nagging question in his mind.

GINGERY: When you hear about a child that dies in a car wreck or anybody that passes away, you wonder why a person like me was saved? Why am I here? Was this an accident that I lived?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nearly a year to the day after his accident and at the very same location, Rob would receive the astonishing answer to his question.

KING: Rob Gingery, first, what happened? How did your accident occur?

GINGERY: I just typical Sunday afternoon, been out riding the Harleys all day. Just like two little guys that get away from mama for a few minutes. Me and my buddy Randy were playing a little game of cat and mouse headed back to the house. He got -- took off from one red light faster than I did. At the next turn I decided I would show him how much faster my bike was than his. I don't know if you call it winning the race but I sure got to the bottom of the hill first.

KING: And from this, you suffer four skull fractures, a broken hand and broken leg. A cat scan showed a blood clot forming in your brain. By the next morning the clot has tripled in size. You go into emergency surgery. What happened after that?

GINGERY: Well, I got up and had brain surgery on Monday morning. They told my family that didn't look good. I probably wasn't gonna make it. If I did, I would have to have medical attention for the rest of my life. I was at home Friday night of the same week sleeping in my own bed.

KING: That miracle saves you.

Now, what happened a year later that involved you and the lady sitting next to you?

GINGERY: That's a heck of way to get to meet someone, become friends with her family. At the same area where I had my accident, within sight of where I was laying on the ground the year before, I was headed back to my house right after lunch one day and came up, when Vicki was right in front of me. She ran the stop sign. A gentleman hit her. Her vehicle turned upside down. And you know, it was like shock to me, anyone of you driving down the road see something like that. It will shock you.

I got out. Her vehicle was upside down. I went to the vehicle to hit her first. Opened the door. The guy was dazed. I pulled him out. I called 911 and went to her truck. And I'll be honest with you, she didn't look like she was alive. I could see her against the passenger door of the door, covered in blood. It's just -- I'm not a paramedic. I'm just a guy that happened to be there at the right time.

I managed to open the door to the truck. I kneeled down beside her. As I did, she was coming to. She was -- I could tell she was waking up from being unconscious. I got her out of the vehicle. Turned out she had a little boy in the truck. I think he was 5 years old. And I got her and the little boy. I got them over to the side of the road, away from the vehicle. Because at that point it look to me like it was fixing to blow up. The engine was running wide open. There was gas all over the ground. It was pretty messy.

As I sat her down I reassured her that I called 911. When she started saying my baby's still in the truck. Naturally I was thought she was talking about the little boy. She convinces me there's a little girl in there. I go back to the truck and find out, sure enough, there's a -- turned out to be 9-year-old, her daughter Camille. When the truck turned upside down, she had been knocked unconscious. And she had the seat belt on. As the vehicle flipped over apparently she slid up. The seat belt was around her neck. She was unconscious and not breathing and had turned awful shade of gray.

I was able to get in. I wiggled between the seats. Got to the back. And by then a crowd apparently gathered around outside. I realized I wasn't able to release the seat belt. I couldn't get my hand in to mash the button and I couldn't get the little girl free. It was a terrible experience. This is the worst experience than my wreck, believe me.

At that point this man was looking in the window. I asked did anybody have a knife? I remembered, of course I had a knife at that point. I never carry a pocket knife. And that day I had found a knife that had been given to me by a good friend of mine under the seat of my truck. Put it in my pocket. Big coincidence. So I unfolded the knife, cut the seat belt. At this point the seat belt was so tight, I really afraid I was going to cut her.

As I cut it, I dropped the knife and grabbed the little girl. Laid her down in the top of the truck and kind of hovered over her debating at that point should I try to drag her out though one of these windows or should I stay in there until the paramedics get there? I still was concerned about the truck catching on fire, or blowing up.

KING: What did you do?

GINGERY: Well, I stayed and I prayed. I'm going to tell you, I was doing some serious praying at that point. And the paramedics came. They got me out. Then they went to work with the little girl.

KING: How, Vicki, did she turn snout

VICKI O'BRIANT, SAVED BY ROB GINGERY: She's great. She went to the Junior Olympics this year.

KING: And the boy's okay and you were okay?

O'BRIANT: Everybody was great.

KING: How did you look up Rob?

O'BRIANT: Well, what happened was, I went back to my truck, I guess it was a week later, and I found the knife.

GINGERY: The knife had my name engraved on the side of the handle.

O'BRIANT: I thought, well maybe this was the man that came to our rescue and I needed to try to find him. So I opened the phone book up, found Gingery, he was the only one.

KING: You two have become friends now?


O'BRIANT: Correct.

KING: Vicki, this has got to be a miracle to you.

O'BRIANT: Very much so. I thank god every day that he was there. It was a blessing and a miracle.

KING: And the miracle, Richard, is he never carries a pocket knife. Why does he have it that day?

THOMAS: Did you have any feeling at all when you turned that corner and you went through that intersection sand saw that truck that, oh, this is why I have been spared? I have to do something about this. I know you felt that way later on, but did you have any sense while it was happening that this was why you were there that day?

GINGERY: No, I did not. I'll be honest with you, it didn't really emotionally hit me until I was at home. First thing I did was call my mom. Say hey mom, you're not going to believe what just happened. I was at home washing the blood off my arms and hands. That's when the reality hit me.

KING: Well you two are amazing. We salute you. Rob Gingery and Vicki O'Briant, another miracle that really happened. When we come back, a miracle of a promise years ago come true. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had searched and searched on the Internet, calling people, and I had just about given up hope. I knew it would take a miracle to find anyone that had really known my dad. (END VIDEO CLIP)



HOWARD MARSHALL, SON OF WWII POW: I knew very little about my father. And growing up, I was always lonesome and disappointed that he had not returned from the war.


KING: This is a great story. Richard Thomas remains with us, the Emmy award winning actor and the host of "It's A Miracle" on PAX TV.

This is the story of Glen Frazier and Howard Marshall. Glenn is in Pensacola, Florida and Howard is in Atlanta. Glen Frazier and Howard Leachman (ph) were friends in the Philippines during World War II. They were in the famed Bataan Death March. Howard died in a Japanese POW camp. He asked Glen to do him a favor if Glenn lived. Watch.


GLEN FRAZIER, FRM. POW, MADE PROMISE TO DYING FRIEND: Howard was the first one of the group to get malaria and bad dysentery. He said, I have a premonition that you're the only one that I know that's going to get to go back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you get back to the states, I need you to find my son.

FRAZIER: He said, will you please promise me that you'll see that he's taken care of.

THOMAS (voice-over): In August of 1945, the Japanese surrendered and American POWs were finally released, ending their long tour of duty.

FRAZIER: I made a phone call, information, to Cartersville, Georgia.

THOMAS: The operator put Frazier through to the home of Howard Leachman's oldest brother. The call was answered by Howard's sister- in-law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served with him in the Philippines.

FRAZIER: I told them who I was and I was in a prison camp with Howard when he died. And I wanted to find out where his son was.

But she wouldn't give me very much information, just assured me that he was all right and taken care of. I felt very empty and like I had betrayed my friend. Didn't get the job done, which I had promised I would. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Howard, as your best friend, you're in the prison camp together. He passes away. You make this promise to find his son. There you see his son, who is Howard Marshal. Was he married? Was Howard Leachman married at the time?

FRAZIER: Well, the child was born in Columbus, Georgia, and that wasn't the question at the time. I wasn't sure about that.

KING: The only question was, he knew he had a son?


KING: You get back from this horror of a Japanese death camp, prison camp, very few survived. You make a call and they kind of put you off. What happened in all the remaining years?

FRAZIER: Well, I kept searching and kept wondering. And those days, you could not get any information from the military about somebody that something had happened to him at the time. You didn't have the computers. Getting information was very, very hard to get.

And I just could not come up with any way to find anybody, because the ranks were -- lot of the guys were dead by then, and the ranks were closing on us, and they wasn't living very long and as a result I couldn't find anybody.

KING: So it took 50 years?

FRAZIER: Fifty-eight years.

KING: How did you finally find Howard Marshall?

FRAZIER: Well, we have in the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, we had a bimonthly magazine that come out. There was an article written about the Tiabus (ph) work detail where Howard's daddy died. And I knew it had to be written by somebody that was there or was close to somebody. So I called.

I called a gentle the man in Maryland. He said, well, I don't have a list of the ones that lived but I do have a list of the ones that died. So he said, do you know of anyone that died? I said, yes. Two men. One was Howard Leachman and a guy by the name of Teretsky (ph).

He said, well do you believe that two weeks ago I talked to a gentleman by the name of Howard Marshall, said he was Howard Leachman's son. I asked him for the phone number.

And as a result, the next call I made the next minute as I hung up, I called him in Atlanta and he answered the phone.


FRAZIER: Mr. Marshal, my name is Glen Frazier. I served with your daddy in the Philippines.


KING: And Howard, what was that phone call like?

MARSHALL: There was a total surprise, Larry, to hear Glen. I was really glad to hear from him.

KING: Did you know about Glen?

MARSHALL: No, sir, I didn't know anything about Glen at all.

KING: You knew you had a father though that died in Bataan?

MARSHALL: Yes, sir. I knew he had died and I had been told he died in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp but didn't have any details of the conditions under which he died.

KING: Had you been searching for information for years?

MARSHALL: Not really. I started in the year 2000 looking on the Internet and looking. I found the survivor's organization, American Defenders of the Bataan and Corregidor and another one called Battling Bastards of Bataan.

The gentleman that Mr. Frazier called was Paul Reuter in Oxen Hill, Maryland. Paul is the one that had written the article about the Tiabus work detail, work detail on which 300 soldiers started and within 60 days more than 100 of them had died of ill treatment.

KING: Glen, have the two of you become friendly?

FRAZIER: Yes, we have.

KING: Is it also true that you're now working together to try to get Howard's fathers remains back from the Philippines?

FRAZIER: Yes, we are. In fact, it's very difficult because the Army Corp and Hawaii are trying to arrange something for us, but they haven't been able to because the hostilities in that area.

KING: Did he give you a picture of little Howard as a baby, Glen?

FRAZIER: He showed me a picture. He did not give me a picture. He showed it to me. He kept that in his bill fold.

KING: Did you know or have a picture of your father, Howard?

MARSHALL: Yes, sir, I did. I had one picture and later again through meeting some of the relatives through the Internet I have discovered a picture that may be him as a teenager.

We do have one good picture of him in his Army uniform taken in about 1940 before he volunteered to go to the Philippines.

KING: You're too young, Richard, and I was just a kid. But the Battle of Bataan was one of the worst battles of World War II.

THOMAS: There was a movie, "Back of Bataan," I used to watch as a kid...

KING: Robert Taylor.

THOMAS: Absolutely.

KING: That march...

THOMAS: The death march. Devastating. I wonder what it was like to hear 58 years later that one of the last things your father said was tell my son I love him.

KING: How did that feel, Howard?

MARSHALL: That was amazing. That was truly amazing. It was great to hear that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell him that I love him, OK?


KING: Glen, how did it feel to finally deliver the message?

FRAZIER: It feels good because when you're -- you know something about when you're in a situation like that, that you promise somebody, it's on your dying wish that a guy would make a request of you like that. It's taken very seriously. It was like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders to find him and to know that he was all right.

KING: Only 186 men survived that battle, right, that march in that camp?

FRAZIER: Well, in that camp, yes. And I was one of the last ones to come out of the camp. And I think that I do know where Howard's body is, Howard Leachman's body is. Because there was two separate places that we buried people. So I'm hopeful that we can find his body.

KING: Howard, what a great story. Thank you both very much.

FRAZIER: Thank you very much, Larry.

KING: Glen Frazier and Howard Marshall.

THOMAS: Got the job done, didn't he?

KING: Boy, did he get the job done.

When we come back an extraordinary story. A lady loses a wedding ring in the Gulf of Mexico. We'll tell you how it was found. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We walked in the water, felt with our feet and everything. Just hoping some miracle it would come to the shore and we would just find it laying there. But, it was just gone.

THOMAS: Mary would have to return home to New York with her precious ring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I promised her, Mary, I'll find your ring. Said, I'll look on the beach. I'll look everywhere. I won't give up until I find you that ring, Mary.



KING: Joining us now from Peoria, Illinois: Mary George, who lost her wedding ring in the Gulf of Mexico; and in Tampa, Florida, Cindy Soto, who helped track it down.

It's a story about a lost wedding ring and literally finding a needle in a haystack. Watch.


THOMAS: Mary gave John a very special ring.

MARY GEORGE, LOST WEDDING RING IN GULF OF MEXICO: A white gold band. And I have had inscribed in it, "all my love, all my life," with our wedding date in it.

THOMAS: And so, on their fifth anniversary, John presented Mary with a matching ring; 24 years later, Mary was visiting her sister Cindy in Bradenton, Florida. And they planned a day at the beach.

GEORGE: I suddenly realized that my ring was gone. I was just devastated. I was just devastated. It's like losing a part of you. We tried to feel it with our hands and our fingers and our toes, just going over the same area over and over again.

THOMAS: We continued to search and search. But, deep in my heart, I knew that we were never going to find this ring. Mary was so upset, she was actually crying. And I have never seen Mary cry about anything.


KING: Mary, Mary, a ring in the Gulf of Mexico. It's a pretty big place. You had to say, "Forget it; I have lost it,' right?

GEORGE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

KING: How did it come off?

GEORGE: I think it came off because I had been using a lot of suntan lotion and... KING: Oh, it was slippery.

GEORGE: And, just, it was slippery. But I've had it on for so many years, I never even thought about taking it off. And when I came out of the water, it was gone.

KING: Now, Cindy, you were with Mary when she lost it?

CINDY SOTO, SISTER OF MARY: No. My husband was with her, Reuben (ph).

KING: And they came back and told you the story, right?

SOTO: Yes, they did.

KING: And you had to say it's gone and forgotten, right?

SOTO: Well, of course. Who would think you could find a ring in the Gulf of Mexico?

KING: So, what did you do?

SOTO: Well, my husband and a friend of mine who is at work with me went to a car show. And they started talking about treasures. And this Danny (ph) said that his dad did metal-detecting on the beach.

So, he came and told me about it. So, the next day at work I asked Danny, did his dad go down Bradenton and stuff like that? And he said, yes.

And I said: "Well, this is a big shot, but my sister lost her ring and maybe he could find it. Maybe he has it, you know?" I said, "It's a white gold, but it has the inscription, 'all my love, all my life.'" So, Danny said he'd ask his dad. And the next day, he came to work and he said, "Cindy, you're not going to believe this, but I found the ring."

And I went, "Oh, that's like a miracle." I said, "You didn't?"

He said, "Yes." He said, "That was the inscription," that his dad really remembered it. So..

KING: And he found it where, on the beach?

SOTO: He found it in the water, in about 3 foot of water.

KING: Sheesh. You're lucky it didn't just go out to sea.

Now, you didn't give to it her right away, right, Cindy?

SOTO: Oh, no.

KING: What did you do?

SOTO: I wanted to surprise her for Christmas. And I thought, well, this is going to probably be the best one she'll ever have. So, I just got this old Calico angel and put twine around it. And I put the ring through it. And I called my brother-in-law John. And I said I had found the ring. "Please don't buy her another one." And he said OK. So I said, "She's got to open this one first Christmas Eve." He said all right. So I said, "Make sure you take pictures."

KING: All right, Mary, what happened that Christmas Eve?

GEORGE: Well, I thought something was up, because my husband came and said Cindy had a real special gift for me and she wanted me to open it that night instead of Christmas morning. And he brought out a camera. And I said OK.

So I opened it up. And it was this beautiful little Calico angel. And I was a little disappointed, because there was something of hers that I really wanted, and that wasn't it. And he said, "No, look at the angel again." And I looked at it again. And I saw the ring that she had put on a little piece of ribbon.

And I thought, "Oh, my" -- I thought John had gone out and bought me another ring for Christmas. And he said, "No, no, honey, look at it again." And then I realized it was my ring. And I was stunned, absolutely stunned. I just -- I couldn't figure out how in the world she had ever found that ring. I thought it was on its way to Mexico.

KING: So, that had to be the best Christmas of her life.

THOMAS: Absolutely.

GEORGE: It was. Absolutely.

THOMAS: A great Christmas present. Harder than finding a pencil under the refrigerator, I'll tell you.


GEORGE: Yes, right.

KING: Well, you two are forever linked. You're closer now. Some sisters can have problems. You two are forever linked. What a great story.

GEORGE: Absolutely.

KING: Thank you, Mary.

And thank you, Cindy.

And merry Christmas, too.

SOTO: Thank you, Larry.

GEORGE: Merry Christmas. Thank you, Larry.

KING: Mary George and Cindy Soto and a ring in the Gulf of Mexico. Hey, happens every day.


KING: We have one more major story about uniting half-sisters. It's next.

Don't go away.


KING: Joining us now in New York City are Kathleen Gordon Rowland, who has been united with her half-sister, Jessica Hickling. Robert Gordon, Kathleen's father, was killed in World War II.

While trying to find out more about her father, she came across some surprising news. Watch.


THOMAS: Over the years, Kathleen remained silently curious about the father she'd never known. It wasn't until she was grown, with a family of her own, that she finally had the courage to open the box she'd kept hidden in her attic, a box containing a treasure trove of wartime love letters written by her father to her mother. But the letters also contained a secret that had been kept from Kathleen her entire life.

KATHLEEN GORDON ROWLAND, HALF-SISTER OF JESSICA: Reading through the letters, I found one from my grandmother to my mother. And it was marked "personal" across the front of it.

THOMAS: As Kathleen read on, the facts emerged that her father had had a child from a previous relationship who had been given up for adoption.

ROWLAND: Then I found a piece of paper. And on there was the name Jessica Witzle (ph).

THOMAS: And so Kathleen began a quest to search for her long- lost half-sister.


KING: All right, Kathleen, were you shocked?

ROWLAND: Oh, yes, totally.

KING: And so, you begin the search for Jessica by doing -- how long ago did you discover this, this box? When did you open it?

ROWLAND: I knew about the box all through my childhood, but I started in the year 2000 to read all of these letters. And there are about 600 letters. So, it took me most of the year to do it, because it was very much an emotional roller coaster.

KING: Jessica, did you grow up with another father, a stepfather, a different person?

JESSICA HICKLING, HALF-SISTER OF KATHLEEN: I was adopted with the adoptive family from the time of about 3 months old. However, I didn't know I was adopted until my 16th birthday. I was looking for my birth certificate. Instead, I found out -- adoption papers with the name of Jessica Hewitt (ph). My mother was Mildred Hewitt (ph).

KING: Did you ever try to find out who your father was?

HICKLING: Well, with that, my adoptive mother gave me a copy of his obituary and three pictures of my father and told me the story.

KING: Did you know he had a daughter?

HICKLING: In the obituary, Kathleen is mentioned. So, yes, I knew.

KING: Did you search for her?


KING: And, Kathleen, did you search for Jessica?

ROWLAND: I had called a detective to see if I could. But I didn't have birth dates and I didn't have a lot of the pertinent information.

KING: All right, how did you finally wind up finding her, Kathleen?

ROWLAND: Well, I went with my youngest son to our dad's reunion, the 157th Regiment of the 45th Division. And when I was at that reunion, I went to the bulletin board to put a picture of my dad up there and I discovered his obituary with his picture.

I had never seen it. And I wondered how they had that and I didn't. And the obituary said, "Contact relatives in room 817." I said to my son: "We're in room 1200. This is wrong."

And just with that, Jessica walked up to me and said, "Are you Kathleen?" And I looked in her eyes and I knew she had to be Jessica.

KING: Wow.

How has it been since, Jessica, for the two of you?

HICKLING: Oh, really great, really great.

It's great having a sister, finding we have so many similarities. I was at this reunion with my son also. And we've gotten to know each other's families. And it's fantastic. It really is.

KING: But you spent, Kathleen, over 50 years thinking you were an only child, right?

ROWLAND: That's right. And now I have to share, which is not easy for me.


KING: Were you angry for your father, because he had fathered with someone else that you didn't know about?


KING: Well, he didn't keep it from you.

ROWLAND: It was a different time. He was the youngest of seven children in an Irish Catholic family. We don't know all the particulars of exactly what happened. And I am just grateful. I think he didn't rest in peace until he brought us together.

THOMAS: I was going to ask, did you find that the two of you now being together has somehow brought your father more into your own lives?

HICKLING: Absolutely.

THOMAS: Do you feel closer to your dad?

ROWLAND: Well, we now have a dad. Before, we had a father who was killed. Now we have a dad, because, reading through the letters, you learn what books he liked to read. He was a bridge player. I'm a bridge player, Jessica's a bridge player.

We met him for the first time. So now -- we always loved him, but now he's part of our lives.

KING: You've been to his grave site?

ROWLAND: I have, which is in France.

KING: Oh, it's in France.

Jessica, might you go over?

HICKLING: I went over, but I thought he was buried in Italy. So, I went to the cemetery Anzio. I do intend to go back to France.

And, just reading the letters -- Kathleen's very generous in sharing them -- we get to know what kind of a person he is. And it's really fantastic, because I knew nothing of my father's family. Kathleen was from the second marriage. And she grew up knowing cousins. And so, for me, it's fantastic. I thought I was an only child, with no relatives.

KING: Oh, wow.

Are all of your families friends now? Are your two families friendly?

ROWLAND: Yes. There is a distance. Jessica lives in Massachusetts and I'm in Connecticut. But we do see each other about once a month, something like that.

KING: That's a great story, Kathleen Gordon Rowland and Jessica Hickling, and a father who rests in peace.

We'll be back with our remaining moments with Richard Thomas.

But before that and before we go to break, another miracle story.


THOMAS: In the rough-and-tumble Crenshaw district of South Central Los Angeles, it isn't usual to see stray animals. But in October of 1999, a special pair of dogs caught the attention of local resident Alma Hernandez (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I saw that they were together in the ally and they were looking for food. It touched my heart, because I saw that they were trying to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One day, Annie (ph) darted out to the street and she got hit by a car. She was badly hurt. She wasn't moving. Arthur (ph) had rushed out and he circled her and he made sure cars would stop.

THOMAS: Even more amazing, Arthur grabbed Annie by the collar and dragged her out of the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's rare to see a dog that's a stray that's on the street and that is neglected himself have so much courage, so much bravery and so much love.

THOMAS: Under Arthur's watchful eye, Alma and Evelyn (ph) nursed Annie back to health, always aware that, without him, she might have died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I have never seen other dogs like those. This was a miracle.




THOMAS: After a heart transplant brought Gaea Shaw (ph) back from the brink of death, she found herself on the long road to recovery. During her rehabilitation, she was mysteriously drawn to the sport of swimming and it soon became her passion. She went on to win a gold medal in the 1998 U.S. Transplant Games.

When the Shaws returned home, they felt compelled to write the family of her donor and express their eternal gratitude. Joni (ph) decided to answer the letter with a package that contained photos and memories of her beloved son. And from the letter came a miraculous connection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christopher (ph) loved to go swimming. Even though Christopher's not here, he's still carrying on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes, when I'm swimming and I am pushing hard, I'll say, "Help me out here, Christopher." He's always with me. I feel that, deeply.


KING: That was another "Miracle" clip.

How many miracles have you done, Rich?

THOMAS: We've done hundreds, hundreds and hundreds on our show. It's amazing to me. It made me realize that, no matter how bad it seems out there, something terrific is happening to somebody every day.

KING: You told me -- we had the ring story. You told me another ring story.

THOMAS: We had a few ring stories. And one of them...

KING: Tell the balloon story.

THOMAS: It's amazing how many rings people lose.

This one was lost by a man in the woods. And years and years later, a hot air balloon crashed into his backyard with these people in it. And he brought them into the house to make a phone call. And while they were in there, he looked on the man's hand and said, "Where did you get that ring?"

He says, "Well, I found it in the woods a few years ago."

He says: "Well, that's my ring. Can I look on the inside of it?" And then, sure enough, that was his ring. It came back in a hot air balloon years later.

KING: Where do they get the stories?

THOMAS: Well, from all around. People write in with their stories. And, of course, we confirm, corroborate, make sure they're all true. We get them from magazines, from books, from newspaper articles. People come up to me in the parking lot of the grocery store and tell me about the amazing things that have happened to them.

KING: And then you dramatize the events.

THOMAS: Yes, we do.

And now we have a lot of the dramatizations, most of them are done by the people to whom the story really happened.

KING: Actually, I noticed that, the actual people. You had the guy in the hospital, right?

THOMAS: Which is great. Yes, it's even, really, better when the real people relive the stories, because I look at them doing them. And I think, I know this is a reenactment, but these people are crying. This is very real. And, of course, they're reliving the moments that really happened to them.

KING: Some other things. In retrospect, "The Waltons" was wonderful for you.

THOMAS: It was a great show for me.

KING: Was it harmful, in a way, that it typed you so much that you'll always be that kid?

THOMAS: Well, I think any great success that an actor has is going to be a double-edged sword at some level.

If I should live to 95, it will be "John-Boy Dead at 95." You know it and I know it. But that's OK with me, because I loved that show. For a while, it irritated me.

KING: You didn't get parts?

THOMAS: No, I always got parts. But sometimes I didn't get the ones that I thought would be the most challenging and the most different for me.

You know how it is. Once you've played one kind of part well, that's what they want to send you. But I persevered and I have never stopped working.

KING: And why were "The Waltons" so successful?

THOMAS: Family.

KING: In retrospect.

THOMAS: Family. Just a true story about a family, everything that a family went through.

When that show went on the air, there were no stories like that. Everybody, all the characters on TV were either -- they were rich cops or successful lawyers or doctors. And here was just a family, an American family, struggling to make it. And I think a lot of people could identify with that.

KING: And what are you doing now? You're playing a lawyer?

THOMAS: I am doing my first dramatic television series in 30 years, television series, regular series. And I'm playing a tough lawyer, a rich guy with three ex-wives and no kids, who's a strong guy and a really different kind of part than anything I have ever played. And I'm having a ball. It's called "Just Cause."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THOMAS: I applaud your initiative, but maternal instinct is a poor substitute for fact. You can be sure that Ms. Chow is not going to walk into court armed only with instinct.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Ms. Chow has ice water for blood.

THOMAS: And you could take a lesson from her. Bring me some evidence I can use in court.


KING: How has 9/11 changed us?

THOMAS: Well, I think it's changed us all, of course.

It just reminds us of how precious every moment is that we have. I think that we're all going to go. But, while we're here, we've got to really hold onto each other and do the best for each other we can. Remember that it's not over until it's over. Something wonderful can always happen.

KING: Do you think more people are remembering more miracles occurring since, more people thinking about it more?

THOMAS: I don't know, but I think it's possible. People are coming up to me a lot. They come up to me in the airports, as I said, at the grocery store, everywhere, with things that have happened to them. I think people are counting their blessings.

KING: Any miracles around 9/11?

THOMAS: We did a show. We did a show that was aired on September 12 of this year in which we took three stories, one of whom was about the blind man with the dog.


THOMAS: I saw it on your show.

KING: Now, there's a miracle. How did he get down?

THOMAS: An incredible story. And three guys who were trapped in an elevator, and one man who went down a wrong stairway and found somebody else who was trapped, freed them, and got out the building just before it collapsed, three stories that sort of dovetailed and intertwined. And we told that story on September 12.

KING: And now we have a book out of selected stories, "It's a Miracle," based on the TV series, right?

THOMAS: Yes. They're real short versions of a lot of the best stories we've told. And they're fun to just take off the self and dip into, very inspiring.

KING: It's always good seeing you.

THOMAS: It's great to see you.

KING: We'll do another show, of course.

THOMAS: Thank you. I appreciate it.

KING: We'll do this about every six months, I guess.

THOMAS: That's OK.

KING: Richard Thomas.

The book that's out now, "It's a Miracle," is based on the TV series. He also stars in "Just Cause," a new series which started airing on PAX TV Mondays at 9:00. And, of course, "It's a Miracle" airs Thursdays at 8:00.

We thank you very much for joining us. "NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN" is next.

I'm Larry King. Good night.



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