Complete Strangers Find Out They're Brothers Thanks to TV — and Now They're Making 'New Memories'

"We can't change what's happened," says Ed Waites, 54, "but all we can do as brothers now is to make up for that lost time"

It started with a snowball fight. Now, after more than 50 years, long-lost brothers Randy Waites and Ed Waites of California have found each other and are starting a whole new, blissfully unexpected chapter in their lives.

"I wasn't looking for him and he wasn't looking for me," Randy, 55, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue about the half-brother he only just learned he had. "We just didn't even know either one of us existed, so the way that we found each other is just unbelievable to me."

On Dec. 22, 2021, Randy, who lives in Northern California, happened to catch a glimpse of Ed on the local news — his first-ever time on TV.

Ed, 54, who lives in Anaheim but was spending Christmas in the Lake Tahoe area with his family, was engaged in a snowball fight with his son when a news crew from Sacramento-based station KCRA-TV pulled over to talk to him for a weather report.

Randy saw Ed on his TV screen and couldn't help but notice how much this stranger standing in the snow looked like him. He was floored when he saw Ed's last name — Waites with an "e" — flash on the screen for a lightning-quick 10 seconds.

Edward Waites; Randy Waites
Edward Waites and Randy Waites as children. Courtesy of Edward Waites; Courtesy of Randy Waites

"It was spelled the same way as mine," says Randy.

Randy's daughter took to social media and determined that her dad and the man on TV unbelievably had the same birth father.

Randy Waites, right, with his newly found brother, Edward Waites
Randy Waites and Edward Waites. Araceli Waites

Six days later, Randy's half-sister, Nellie, tracked Ed down and left a message for him on his cell phone.

"She said, 'We've seen you on TV, and I was doing a little investigating for him and come to find out, you guys share the same father," Ed tells PEOPLE.

"It was an immediate chill from head to toe," he says. "I just knew it was the real deal. And she said, 'If you're interested, call me back.'"

He did.

"I waited about 10 minutes, wiped a few tears, to be honest, and got on the phone and called her," says Ed. "We talked for about an hour. I just couldn't wait to be meet the guy, just couldn't wait to see him. It just opened up a whole new chapter of my life."

Randy and Ed bonded the minute they spoke on the phone.

"We just clicked like we've known each other for 20 or 30 years," says Randy, who couldn't believe how much they had in common. "And we just kind of took it from there."

On Feb. 5, they met each other in person for the first time, as Ed's wife, Randy's wife and two kids, and a news crew from KCRA-TV filmed the life-changing meeting.

"Where have you been my whole life?" Randy said when he laid his eyes on Ed for the first time, KCRA-TV reported.

edward Waites
Edward Waites with his family. From left: Edward Waites, his wife Araceli Waites and their children Nicole Waites and Kevin Waites. Courtesy Edward Waites

After lots of hugs all around, they started getting to know each other.

For more on how Randy and Ed Waites found each other after all these years, subscribe now to PEOPLE, or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

"We all got acquainted and introduced him to my new, huge family that I have here, and everybody just clicked," says Randy, who invited Ed and his wife to stay with him and his family in Lodi for the weekend.

"We just had a great time," says Randy. "We went over to the delta and scouted out some fishing areas. We ate a lot of good food and just spent a lot of time catching up. It was just fantastic. I hated to take him to the airport."

randy waites
Randy Waites with his family. From left: Sandi Waites, daughter Cambria Waites, Randy Waites and son Dalton Waites. Debbie Collins

Filling in the Blanks

During their time together, the two brothers discovered that they both love to fish and ride Harleys, like their father, Donald E. Waites.

While Ed grew up with his father in his life, Randy did not.

"I've never met the man," he says about his dad, who died in 2009.

As a boy, when Randy asked his mother about his dad, she told him he had "moved on" soon after he was born.

Donald went on to marry Ed's mom, who gave birth to him about a year after Randy was born.

If their dad were alive, he would be thrilled to know his sons had finally met, says Ed.

"I would be a little upset asking him why didn't he tell me sooner," says Ed. "But I know he'd be excited, and the first thing he'd want to do is plan something for us three to do together."

"He'd definitely want to go camping, hunting, fishing — he'd definitely want to do something," Ed continues. "He's been gone a while but I feel him every day in spirit, and I know he's behind this 100%. I like to say he had something to do with it. But he'd be extremely happy."

Donald Elvis Waites
Donald Elvis Waites. Courtesy of Edward Waites

Echoing his brother's sentiments, Randy says, "I think it's meant to be."

Still, Ed says he feels bad that he got to grow up with their dad and Randy didn't.

"It'll always be there, to apologize for what Randy lived without that I had," says Ed. "I would've liked more than anything for him to share in our fishing trips together and the conversations we had, it just would've been that much better to have him there."

"So, I mean, we can't change what's happened, but all we can do as brothers now is to make up for that lost time," he adds. "Hopefully, I've provided those pieces to his missing puzzle, things that he had in his life and things that were missing. And fortunately, I feel I've been able to do that."

It's all good, says Randy, who's just happy Ed is now in his life.

"He doesn't need to apologize for our father," says Randy. "I'm a victim of circumstances. Who knows what was going on between his mom, my mom, and our father?"

Ed says his dad didn't say too much about his past.

"Everyone has secrets and skeletons in the closet, so to speak," says Ed. "I knew my dad ran with, kind of, a motorcycle club — he told me — back in the '50s and '60s, and he would tell me some wild stories, but he wouldn't tell me too much. He knew when to restrain."

"He was an interesting guy," Ed continues. "He always had a smile stuck on his face and I guess for good reason. He was always a child at heart."

"But it made sense when Randy and I put the pieces together," he adds. "I said, 'Okay, now it kind of fit together.'"

New Memories

Ed says he can't wait for Randy to come visit him in Southern California.

Even though they live hundreds of miles apart, "We're continually planning things," says Ed. "We're talking about getting together for the Fourth of July. He's going to come here. I'm going to make sure I go up there and spend some time fishing, whether I go alone or with the whole family."

"It doesn't much matter as long as he and I are together just doing something," he adds.

Randy feels the same way.

"I'm a good, hardworking man and a wonderful father to my children, and now I've got a fantastic new brother," he shares, "so we're just looking forward to moving forward and making new memories."

Updated by
Johnny Dodd
Johnny Dodd

Johnny Dodd is a senior writer at PEOPLE, who focuses on human interest, crime and sports stories.

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