Christopher Tharp doesn't remember his father. Now 37, Chris was only two years old when they were last together.
The Paso Robles mechanic was hoping to be reunited with not only his father but his dad's relatives who were once living in the Ceres, Keyes and Turlock areas. The recent birth of Christopher's son, Jonathan, sparked a desire to find his dad.
"I have a six-month-old son that I can't live without and it just kind of dawned on me maybe he's out there somewhere wondering about me," said Tharp on Thursday. "So I've decided to search for him."
He wanted to ask his father, Mark Lockhart, if he wanted to see his grandson. However, a newfound tip about the identity of his grandparents on Friday led to a series of discoveries and the heart-breaking revelation that his father passed away over a year ago at age 52.
Through some internet sleuthing, Chris found a brief obituary on Mark Lockhart that read simply: "Mark was born on January 2, 1962 and passed away on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.
Mark was a resident of Cedar Vale, Kansas."
It was the answer to a nagging long-time question about the man who fathered him at age 15.
Chris' search started about a month ago and included the sending of about 50 emails and numerous letters. He didn't get far until last week when he contacted the Courier, which also aided in his search.
The product of a short-lived teenage romance that developed between students at Turlock High School, Christopher Tharp was born at Memorial Hospital Ceres on Nov. 30, 1977. Even though he attended Turlock High School in the 1970s, searches of all THS yearbooks produced that decade turned up zero results for a single photo or reference to Mark Lockhart. However, it did turn up a photo of Chris' uncle, his dad's brother, Terry Lockhart, who attended Turlock High in 1973 and 1974.
The school came through with two keys on Friday to unlocking the mystery of his family. He learned his father's Jan. 2, 1962 birthdate - information he previously didn't have - as well as the names of his paternal grandparents, Felton Jack and Blanche Lockhart. That led to several clues found on the internet, which allowed him to reach his uncle Terry for the first time ever on Friday.
"My uncle is terminally ill and I'm going to fly out there next month perhaps and visit with him. Terry thinks I look exactly like his brother. His exact words were, ‘It's like getting my brother back.'"
"I was telling Terry that he's the closet thing I have to my Dad. And he said ‘anything you want to know you can ask me because me and him were best friends.' He told me that he loved my dad more than he loved his mother. He's been telling me lots of stories about my father and the family and people who did know about me."
Chris also expects to finally get a photo of his dad through an aunt, Donna Murray of Arkansas, whom he just made contact.
First on Friday he learned that his grandfather, Felton Lockhart, died in Turlock in March 1989. His grandmother Blanch remarried in 1994 in Arkansas to an Edward Garrett. Sadly she, too, died -death coming in 2012 in Elgin, Kan.
For a while Chris had his hopes up that his father may have been living in either Coffeyville or Sedan, Kan. In the afternoon he stumbled on the brief memorial posted online of his dad.
Prior to last week, Chris' only contact with his dad's family came around 1992 hen he accidentally met his half-brother, Jeremy Lockhart, during the brief time he was attending eighth grade at Keyes Elementary School.
They lost contact but over the weekend he learned that Jeremy is living in Chowchilla. The information came after Shawntai Coyle of Turlock, Jeremy's sister, read an online Courier article that was posted online and called Jeremy on Saturday.
"I've sent him a letter and I hope he responds," said Chris.
Chris learned over the weekend that he is the older brother of two half-sisters through his father.
"Getting in touch with my family has kind of filled a hole," said Chris.