A 43-year-old Ocean Springs man is enjoying a happy reunion with the father he never knew.
As a child, Jeff Mortenson was adopted by the dad who raised him. Mortenson's mother died recently and left behind some clues about his natural father; something that was never discussed by the family.
But a little detective work led to a letter, then a phone call and now a reunion.
"I opened it, and I just, my wife said I looked like I had a letter from the IRS," said Jim Samples.
Samples' shock came not from some audit request, but rather a letter from his long lost son in Mississippi.
"I said, 'Look at this. This is unreal. This is phenomenal.' And I said, 'What should I do?' And she says, 'You've got to call him.' And I said, 'Then what?' And she said, 'Then we're going to Mississippi,'" he said.
Jim Samples and wife Phyllis travel the country in their RV. They received the forwarded letter while visiting Indiana. A phone call followed.
"I got a phone call. Thought it was just another telemarketer. Turned out to be turned out to be my dad calling me and saying, 'Jeff?' And I said,'Yep, this is Jeff.' And he said, 'This is Jim Samples.' I said, 'How are you doing?' I was floored. I never expected to ever hear from him," said Jeff Mortenson.
The father and son have lots of catching up to do. Jim Samples was active duty military when he last saw his son, as a baby.
"Jeff was born while I was overseas. I was in Korea. And I was gone a year and a half or two years. And when I came back, his mother just said, 'It's not there. I want a divorce,'" Samples explained.
"It fills a lot of voids. A lot of holes in my life that I knew existed. A lot of questions that I had," said Mortenson.
The son was somewhat hesitant about tracking down his birth father. Such contacts sometimes lead to dead ends or worse yet, hurtful snubs. But not this one.
"Boy, I tell you what, I got a lot more than I ever thought about. It's just, I'm the proudest man in the world," said Jim Samples.
If Dad is the proudest, his son is no doubt a close second.
Jeff Mortenson not only found his father, he now has an extended family. His dad has five brothers and there are 36 children among the group.