Family searches for grandfather who disappeared

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Leonardo Lomeli (Photo courtesy of family)

Chances are you have your own “family mystery,” but one family is going to great lengths to crack theirs.

Leonardo Lomeli came to the United States as a farmworker 40 years ago. For years he sent letters and money back to his family in Mexico, until he suddenly stopped.

The story of Leonardo Lomeli is as old as the United States itself: A man leaves home in search of the American dream. He picked oranges in Florida to provide for his family back in Mexico.

“They were more happy because they would be able to have money because they were poor, very poor at the time,” said Maria Garcia, Lomeli’s granddaughter.

That was 40 years ago, long before Garcia was born. She’s never had the chance to meet him because one day, the letters – and the money – stopped coming.

“He disappeared, and then they were back to being poor and not knowing where he was,” Garcia said.

The family eventually moved on. Garcia’s father and uncles stopped going to school so they could work to support the family, and Garcia’s father eventually made it to the U.S. himself, but the family never stopped thinking about Lomeli.

“They’re very sad about it because they really needed him when they were smaller and they depended on him and now he just disappeared,” Garcia said. “He could be alive, he could be dead; we need, like, closure, you know?”

To get that closure, Garcia, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, hopes people in Immokalee might know what happened to her grandfather. She believes he worked in citrus fields in Immokalee or LaBelle.

The family fears he may have died, or even started a new family.

“I just wonder if he was alone when he died,” Garcia said. “Because I’m sure he was, and what went through his head if he died… and if not, then I wonder why it went through his head knowing that he had another family in Mexico.”

Leonardo Lomeli came to Immokalee as a farmworker 40 years ago. For years he sent letters and money back to his family in Mexico, until he suddenly stopped. (Photos courtesy of family)

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