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Posted July 31, 2005

Robert and Richard Corriston Reunite
in Optimum Online Commercial

Story by Justin Watrel

Recently, Hasbrouck Heights resident, Bob Corriston, starred in an Optimum Online commercial promoting the benefits of using the online service.

Bob told the story about finding his brother after almost forty years.

This could have been just another story, but Bob’s story is different. It’s about a family torn apart by tragedy, apathy and time. In the end, placing a value on faith was one man’s journey to finding his family.

Bob Corriston and his wife, Mary Margaret, have lived in Hasbrouck Heights for almost twenty-five years.

They are the parents of Christine and the late Douglas, who, at the time of his death, attended Hasbrouck Heights High School.

Bob currently works in sales and his wife is employed at a local bank. Their daughter, Christine, is a graduate of Lycoming College of Williamsport, PA and is a school teacher in North Carolina, where she, her husband, Rocco, and Bella, their dog, now reside.

Bob’s story starts when he was fifteen. Bob was born and raised in Newark, NJ with his older sister, Joan and his younger brother, Richard.

For the most part, Bob admits that they had the typical 50’s childhood growing up in Newark. They had a very tight family. In 1954, the family moved to Kearny.

In February of 1955, his sister got married and moved out of the house. At the end of March of that same year, his mother died of a massive heart attack at age 44. It was a huge blow to the family.

Bob’s world turned upside down three months later when his father brought home the soon-to-be stepmother along with her daughter, mother and brother.

Bob continued that life was no longer pleasant at home. "After three months, I couldn’t take it anymore and told my father so. He told me if I didn’t
like it to get out.

I was fifteen years old with no money and nowhere to go. So I walked out the door with the clothes on my back and a dime in my pocket." He did not have many relatives to help at that point except an aunt, so he decided to seek her help.

He started the long walk from Kearny to Nutley where his aunt lived. Because he did not have enough money to cover the cost of the two buses needed to get to Nutley, he walked part of the way.

When he arrived at his aunt’s door and explained what happened, his Aunt Geri and Uncle Leo, who had no children of their own, immediately took him in.

A few days later they drove him to Kearny to pick up the rest of his belongings. To Bob’s dismay, he found the locks changed and his few worldly possessions thrown in a pile down the basement. After that, Bob had no contact with his father again.

In the beginning, while living at his aunt’s house, he found life different from Kearny and his own family.

While sleeping on the couch in their living room he could hear the nightclub on the ground floor of the building gear up for another long evening.

"That took some getting used to," he commented. On one of those evenings, his uncle suffered a brain aneurysm. "He died the next day," Bob said sadly. That left him alone with his aunt.

Bob ended up leaving school for awhile to help support the household, but eventually returned to Nutley High School.

He played football his senior year and in 1959 graduated from Nutley High School in the same graduating class as Martha Stewart.

At the time of his graduation, he barely had
contact with his sister and no contact with his brother, who was six years younger than him.

Between 1961 and 1963 he was in the service and was stationed in Germany for
a year. "I finally started to enjoy my life. I hung around the base, traveled to some exciting places and worked. It was a very satisfying time," Bob said.

After his discharge he returned to New Jersey, started working and enjoyed many summers at the Jersey shore.

While enjoying a beach rental at the Jersey shore with friends, he met his future wife on the beach. They were married in 1969.

Bob and his wife concentrated on working and raising a family of their own. Life was moving along well for the established family until 1991.

Their son, Douglas, came down with what was thought to be the flu the week before Thanksgiving. Two weeks later he was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Nineteen hours later his family was mourning his death. His death shattered the family.

It was a hard time for the family, but what got them through was the outpouring of support from their friends, family, community and fellow classmates of Douglas at Hasbrouck Heights High School.

"We had a lot of people to comfort us," Bob said. "Rows of kids walked to the church after class to pay their respects and the school lowered the flag to half mast."

Two years after their son’s death, Bob and Mary Margaret were asked by the Newark Archdiocese Family Life Center to start a support group for parents grieving the loss of a child.

The group is now called "HOPE" (Helping Other Parents Endure). They are also involved in raising money for the cure of leukemia. Every year, since its inception, they have had a team, "Doug’s Team," walking in the national "Light the Night Walk."

A tree now stands on the grounds of the high school alongside a bench dedicated to Douglas’s memory.

One month after Douglas died, Bob’s sister died unexpectedly. With two major losses in his family, Bob was determined now more than ever to reconnect with his brother.

He resumed his search of many years and with his computer and the newly installed Optimum program, it was much easier than ever before. His search took him across the country. He found the name Richard Corriston in Colorado.

When he called Richard, it was the first conversation that the brothers had in years. With the use of frequent flier miles, Bob went across country to
meet his brother.

He was met in the baggage area by his brother and his wife, Billie. Needless to say, it was a tearful reunion.

While in Colorado, the brothers decided they wanted to find some way to help
people like themselves. "We wanted to give people who had given up on life, hope," Bob said.

When Bob got back to New Jersey, he wrote a letter to Optimum Online with his story and fifteen months later got a call from the marketing
department that they wanted to film a commercial.

"We receive no residuals when the commercial is shown. Just having my brother and sister-in-law flown in was more than enough compensation."

They filmed for twelve hours what could have been considered a documentary.

They shot in Newark, where their old house had been knocked down, in Kearny at their old apartment and in Hasbrouck Heights at Bob’s

They ended the commercial at the grave of their parents, where the brothers made peace with their father. ###


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