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Family reunites after four decades
Idha Ullha looks over a family album with great-granddaughter Abida Ali. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
For 40 years Clara Ortiz couldn’t find her aunt.

Despite contacting family members and searching in every possible corner, Ortiz would constantly come up short – leaving her exasperated as she trudged on with the goal of one day reuniting her family planted firmly in her mind.

But the hard work eventually did pay off.

“It was a wonderful feeling getting in touch with her again,” said Ortiz. “She had always been my auntie, and after all of that time getting the chance to get reacquainted and bring the family back together again.”

And for this South County family, getting everybody together in one place at one time takes on a special meaning given the history of the family elders and what they had to endure in order to reassemble with the remaining members of their respective clan.

Ullha hails from a line of Native American Indians who had set up shop on the Monterey Peninsula, and would eventually take a pilgrimage to Pakistan where she would spend 18 years – making it nearly impossible for her loved ones to track her down.

But now that she’s with family and friends in a Manteca home, Ida is now back in the familiar company that she played a major role in why the rest of the family that is searching for her are even on the planet to begin with.

“Of course she’s the reason that the rest of us are here right now,” Ortiz said. “And when it was all said and done, she was the one that brought everyone together at the end – that’s not something that you really get a chance to see every day.”

Currently family members are planning Ullha’s 85th birthday party (she herself calls it her 58th birthday party) with the organizing being tackled by nieces Irma and Lucie Khan – pushing forward the theme to reunite the family and give everybody a chance to mingle with Ullha and hear her mesmerizing stories of what it was like to grow up as Native American on the Monterey Peninsula.

“My mother and her mother were sisters, and that’s something that you can never take away,” Ortiz said. “Now that everybody is in the same place, we’re all able to retell family stories and that’s such a big relief after all these years of not knowing.”