Reunion in Comox Valley 'magic for us'
For close to a decade, Raissa Bunter had lost track of her father.
She wasn't sure where he lived. For that matter, she didn't know if he was alive.
But one day, a friend conducted a search on the Internet and spotted a photo of a man bearing a resemblance to the 26-year-old Raissa, who lives in Switzerland.
Turns out the man is, in fact, her father. His name is Greg Wesson, who is alive and well, living in a trailer at the Maple Pool Campsite in Courtenay.
The photo appeared in a Comox Valley Record story about a trailer donation to Wesson, who had lived in a tent before arriving at Maple Pool, which offers low-rent housing to homeless individuals. Raissa was able to reach her father by contacting outreach worker Grant Shilling, who had arranged the trailer donation and whose phone number was included in the story.
Father and daughter reunited last week in Courtenay.
"It was fantastic. It was the exact right moment," an elated Raissa said, referring to her friend's initiative.
Her parents had met each other in Spain, but Raissa was raised by her mother in Lucerne, Switzerland.
"We lost contact for a long time. We were disconnected," said Wesson, 58, who came to Maple Pool about seven years ago after he was badly injured in a motorcycle crash.
He had first met his daughter when she briefly visited the Valley as a teen. The visit was a gift from her sister who had won a contest on a TV game show. The prize turned dreams into reality. Raissa's dream was to meet her father, so the TV station paid her airfare and even supplied some spending money.
"That was a real shock, it really was," said Wesson, recalling their first meeting at the Comox wharf when Raissa's mother tapped him on the shoulder. It was a whirlwind meeting that only lasted a day.
"The next day my head was spinning," he said.
Father and daughter had a better visit when Raissa returned shortly thereafter for a two-week stay. But back then, she did not speak a word of English. They neglected to exchange numbers or addresses, and lost contact for eight years. Since then, she has learned to converse in English.
Besides reconnecting with her father, Raissa met her step-brother Rudy. Wesson's son lives on Hornby Island.
Years back when he lived on Hornby, Wesson had enjoyed a sense of community that came with living on a small island. He had earned a living as a self-employed stone cutter.
Turns out his daughter also has a creative side. Raissa says she "cares for children" at work, and paints in her spare time.
"Boy, oh boy, was that magic for us," Wesson said.