June 14, 2013 at 9:36 AM ET
For 29 years, Father’s Day was just another Sunday for Terrell Starr.
Thanks to a simple inquiry on Facebook, it's now a day to celebrate with a father who didn’t know he existed for nearly three decades.
Starr grew up in a rough part of Detroit under the care of his grandmother, with a mother off in the military and a father he never knew who was absent from his life. Meanwhile, his father was living his life not knowing he had a son.
That all changed one day in 2009 when Starr logged into Facebook and searched for the name “Chris Truesdale’’ in an attempt to see if his father might be out there.
“I didn't believe that anyone would actually reply because I was just so used to being without him,’’ Starr told Willie Geist in an interview that aired on TODAY Friday. “I thought that I was going to live the remaining years of my life without knowing who my father was.”
Truesdale had only purchased a computer two weeks before he saw Starr's message. He logged on to his Facebook account at his home in the Bronx to a message from a stranger saying with the subject line "looking for a father." At the time, Starr was 5,000 miles away, studying in Ukraine on a Fulbright Scholarship.
Truesdale knew immediately that he had just met his 29-year-old son for the first time. There would be no trips to tabloid talk shows to determine paternity.
“When I saw the picture…oh yeah,’’ Truesdale told Geist. “We don’t have to go to Maury (Povich).”
When Starr’s mother initially found out she was pregnant with him, Truesdale had already left their military base and she never was able to track him down. That left Starr yearning for a father he never knew, and Truesdale not knowing he had a son.
“I'm not a guy that has children and don't take care of them,’’ Truesdale said. “Shoot, I mean, had I known he was my child, he'd have been right there.”
Starr still wonders how he was able to make it through his adolescence alive with only his ailing grandmother to keep an eye on him.
“If I had to deal with gangs and fight my way to school, that's what I had to do,’’ Starr said. “Sometimes I would come back to the house with cuts on my cheek from fighting, and she would simply say, ‘Did you get your shots in?’ I often wondered if, when things were really tough, if he knew I was here, would he come and get me?”
Starr overcame his circumstances to earn two masters degrees and the Fulbright scholarship. While Starr was still in Ukraine, they caught up on each other's lives over Skype and then met in person in New York in 2011. Starr was struggling to find work, so Truesdale took his newfound son into his home.
“I didn't think I needed a father when I was younger, but I needed one when I was 31 years old,’’ Starr said. “I thought I was completely prepared for the world, and life had a different plan.”
Starr has since moved out, but the reunited father and son still talk daily after having been strangers for nearly three decades.
“We can drink beer together,’’ Starr said. “We couldn't have done that if I was 14. I don't know, depending on what kind of man he was back in the day, maybe we would have.”
“Wrong answer,’’ Truesdale joked after making a buzzer noise.
“It's cool,’’ Starr said. “I love him. We do grown adult things together, and he came at the perfect time in my life.”