Longtime OOIDA member and 30-year veteran trucker Dale Kirschbaum is an Internet junkie, but it wasn’t looking for loads that made him one. It was a yearning to find a daughter he hadn’t seen in 30 years.
In 1995, Dale decided to quit thinking about his daughter, Kimberly Kay, and get serious about finding her. “I would park my Freightliner in different rest areas or truckstops every time I was near Ohio and look for her name in the directories, but I really wasn’t serious,” he says, “the underlying reason being I was afraid of what might happen if I really did find her. What if she didn’t want to meet me?” He decided to try an Internet search.
The last time Dale saw his daughter, before the recent reunion, was April 1972, a few months after his divorce. She was 18 months old then. Because of strained relations with his ex-wife, he didn’t see Kim again, but never stopped thinking about her. What Dale didn’t know was Kim had been searching for him since she was 15. She also had reached a dead end in her search.
Dale said he really wasn’t happy about buying a computer, but he was filing for his own authority and knew he would use a computer for his business. “Dale pulls produce for Justus Trucklines out of his hometown of Hendersonville, NC. He says he has always pulled a reefer or dry van. “Occasionally, I pull for someone else, but I like being able to get home now that I have a family,” he says.
Almost as soon as he was hooked to the web, Dale found a site called Classmates.com, which lists alumni from high schools across the United States. Under the Ohio listings he scanned the names looking for anyone who had Kimberly Kay in front of their surname. He found a Kimberly Kay Phillips who was the same age as his daughter would be and lived in Westerville, OH – his ex-wife’s hometown. Thinking he had found her, he quickly e-mailed the woman. She responded to Dale’s e-mail saying unfortunately she wasn’t the right Kim, but would like to help Dale find his daughter.
The two searched for three years with no luck, often calling each other on the telephone to report progress. Then Kimberly Kay Phillips remembered Westerville had just completed a directory of alumni from every school in the district, dating back to the 1930s. In it was a listing for a Kim Kay Kirschbaum with a post office address in Willard, OH. Dale wrote a letter and sent it that day. Meanwhile, he kept searching for a physical address. He haunted the web until he found a web site called Publicdata.com. For a fee it lists information on anyone as long as the subscriber has a name to enter. Under the “driver’s licenses” category, he entered the name, Kim Kirschbaum and the service gave him a physical address in Willard. “It was too much, I couldn’t stand the suspense,” Dale says. “I had to deliver a load to Minnesota, so in Minnesota I arranged to pick up another load going through Ohio. Three days later I was at her door, I beat the letter.”
Dale knocked, but Kim didn’t answer because he was a stranger and she was home alone. He stood in the street until a neighbor noticed him. Dale asked him to tell Kim her father was waiting at the front door. “It was the greatest day of my life,” he says. “Grown men do cry.”
The two talked for several hours until Dale had to deliver his load. With promises in place to keep in touch by phone, Dale returned to his home in Hendersonville. On the way, he decided to ask Kim to move to North Carolina.
“I couldn’t stand finding her after 30 years and then not see her,” he said. “She had no ties to Ohio so as soon as I delivered my load, I jumped into my pickup and drove back to move her to North Carolina.” Before they left, the two arranged to meet the other Kimberly Kay, who was so instrumental in their reunion. Dale says the Ohio Kimberly Kay will always be a part of his life too. “We are planning a whole new life,” says Dale. “I can hardly make myself get out on the road.”
Dale says he knows there are a lot of truckers out there in the same situation. Those who have lost touch with family because of the trucking lifestyle. To them he says, “never give up, a child could be looking for you too. If you face a dead end, back up and try again.”
–by Donna Carlson