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It's a family affair

July 08, 2001

Deepa Bharath

When Liz Sullivan sees her brothers and sisters, the floodgates swing

open and she gets caught in a pleasant maelstrom of memories and

emotions.

Sullivan, her three sisters and two brothers form the core group of

the Smith family reunion committee, which has been successful in getting

the whole family together every five years since 1991.

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This reunion, the family decided to meet in Costa Mesa, home to one of

the sisters, Margaret Dailey, 75, the oldest of them all.

The response was amazing. More than 70 members -- sons, daughters,

grandchildren, nieces, nephews, in-laws, girlfriends -- showed up at the

Holiday Inn this weekend for the family celebration they call "2001: A

Smith Oddity," which will last the whole weekend.

"We're here because we love each other," said Dailey, throwing an

affectionate glance at her sisters Helen Olsen and Eleanor Howard. "It's

emotional. When we're together we laugh and cry."

They came from all over the country and from abroad to share their

stories with one another this weekend. Dailey's nephew, Michael Smith,

flew in for the reunion from Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday night with his

girlfriend, Ina Briller.

"I missed the one five years ago, and I feel bad about that," he said.

"I think the unique thing about our family is that we're spread all over

the world, but we still maintain the sense of family over the miles and

over the years."

Sullivan, who lives in South Dakota, says she eagerly awaits these

reunions.

"A lot of things change in five years," she said. "People get engaged,

people get married, babies are born. It's wonderful to find out what

family members are up to."

They were still missing a few people, one of them Sullivan's grandson.

"He's a biologist and he's studying worms in the Philippines," she

said with a laugh. "My brothers were joking about it -- that it's the

best excuse they've heard so far -- studying worms."

Her brothers -- David and Arthur -- are the only Smiths in the core

group, with all the daughters having taken their respective husbands'

family names.

David Smith said he enjoys remembering childhood the most. For 16

years, the family lived in Burma, where their father Joe Smith was a

missionary.

"We've just been around for so long," he said. "So many things have

happened."

The younger generation is as enthusiastic about the reunion, if not

more, said Sullivan's newlywed granddaughter Julie Schultz, who had come

from South Dakota with her husband Brian.

"Not many families have this," she said. "It's really special. I've

really come to know my cousins and had the opportunity to bond with them.

Yeah, I think we can continue this tradition. We should."

Educating the younger members of the family is a significant aspect of

the reunion said Dailey's daughter, Kate Rahm.

"It gives them a sense of where they're from and where they're going,"

she said. "It tells them we're all living out own little lives, but we're

part of something bigger."

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