In late June, siblings Sam and Wendy McPhetres welcomed Angela Startz of Oklahoma to Haines. But this was no ordinary stranger. The special visitor was a long-lost sister who the McPhetres didn’t even know existed until August of last year.

“Our cousin did a DNA screening and matched with her through that, then that cousin called me,” said Wendy.

It turned out that all three siblings share a father, Steve McPhetres, who was the school superintendent of Haines from 1969 until 1986. Prior to coming to Haines, Steve had a two-year stint in Nome as a music teacher, where he met Startz’s birth mother, who was Inupiaq.

“There are a lot of questions we have that will never be answered,” said Wendy. Steve McPhetres passed away in 2015, and Startz’s birth mother passed away about seven years ago. “We feel that it is unfortunate that our dad isn’t alive to have the opportunity to know that he had another daughter and Angela didn’t have the opportunity to meet him,” said Sam.

Wendy first met with Startz in New York in April, and in July Startz flew to Washington to stay with Wendy. Then the two sisters flew to Juneau and took the ferry to Haines to meet Sam. There were a lot of Zoom calls in between, said Sam.

In Haines, Startz went to the Sheldon Museum and Hammer Museum, and took a trip up Lutak to see a couple of bears.

While Startz has been to Alaska before, this was her first time in Southeast Alaska. “Haines is absolutely lovely, it’s really pretty. Everyone is so kind and warm and friendly,” she said.

Startz was adopted as a child, and always knew she was adopted. She met her mom’s side of the family in Anchorage through a different set of connections a few years ago. “Things moved a bit slower then. With DNA testing, and Zoom, and technology, things moved a lot faster,” said Startz.

After her visit to Haines, Startz and the McPhetres attended a mini family reunion in Seattle.

“She’s definitely kin. She’s got the McPhetres wit and is able to swing along with the punches,” said Sam.

Startz said the siblings have already started making plans for the next get-together.