|April 28, 2006, North Platte Telegraph, "Twylia May" Mystery Solved: 71-year-old woman who died in Massachusetts was from Maywood, by Diane Wetzel
Twylia May Embrey died about a month ago, not knowing that the family she left behind more than a half century ago was looking for her.
Embrey's disappearance from this area has been the subject of a mystery spanning five decades. The case made headlines when it was reported that an unidentified woman murdered in Boulder, Colo., in 1954 might have been Embrey.
On Thursday, Twylia's grand-niece, Jennifer Kitt, confirmed that the 71-year-old woman who died in Massachusetts last month was indeed, the daughter of Charles and Adeline Cowman Embrey, who vanished from North Platte in 1953.
"She did a very good job of changing her identity," Kitt said. "But when she died, it was as if she was saying, 'Here I am.' We would have never found her if we hadn't found her obituary."
Kitt has requested that the name Twylia lived by for so many years and the community where she lived be withheld, out of respect for her family and friends, until more information is available.
Embrey only revealed her true identity in recent months, after becoming terminally ill, telling a long-time friend of her Nebraska past.
"(The friend) said Twylia didn't know her family was looking for her," Kitt said. "She was certain we had given up on her. All these years, we have been searching. Her friend said if Twylia had known, she would have been so happy."
Embrey lived in Massachusetts, remaining in the same area for more than 50 years. She worked as a typist in an insurance office, where she met her friend years ago.
"Her friend says she has no idea how Twylia got there from Nebraska," Kitt said. "She told her friend she had been born in Keystone, Nebraska, and the names of her parents."
Kitt has spoken to her great-aunt's friend, and is learning more about Embrey's life.
"She is very open and willing to talk," Kitt said. "Twylia played the guitar and piano, and was the artist that we always thought she was. She loved horses, and had a wonderful husband who was very good to her. She couldn't have children, but she helped raise nieces and nephews."
Detective Steve Ainsworth of the Boulder County (Colo.) Sheriff's Office confirmed the match after being contacted by Kitt. Ainsworth got involved in the case when it was suspected that Embrey might be the woman murdered in Boulder, a theory that was disproved by DNA tests.
"In her obituary a friend was listed, and I suspected she was the one who provided the information to the funeral home," Ainsworth said. "I called the funeral home and confirmed the friend was the source of information and the executor of Twylia's will. I called her and asked her where she met Twylia. She was apprehensive, but when I started telling her Twylia's story, she kept saying 'uh huh, uh huh,' and I said, you knew this already, didn't you?"
The friend confirmed Ainsworth's suspicions.
Ainsworth said he always suspected there was more to the story of Embrey and her father having an argument, and Embrey running away.
"Twylia told her friend that her father wanted her to marry some old guy, and she wanted nothing to do with him," Ainsworth said. "She hid at her grandmother's until she heard her father was coming to get her, so she took off. She changed her name immediately, and got a new Social Security number when she arrived in Massachusetts.
"She just traveled around the country," Ainsworth said.
Margie Danbom was 19 years old when her little sister, Twylia, disappeared.
"She was going to help me plan a birthday party for my daughter," Danbom said. "She came down once, but then she up and disappeared. We couldn't talk about it because Dad would yell and scream and Mom bawled."
The elder Embreys searched for their missing daughter, traveling to California.
"Dad thought she was there because our sister June was there," Danbom said. "She was only 11 when Twylia left; she didn't know anything about it.
"Our sad time is over," Danbom said. "I don't know really what to say. We all grieved for her for years, and now it's the whole thing all over again. I used to dream about her coming and knocking on my door."
Danbom has lots of questions.
"I don't remember what color her eyes were," Danbom said. "I don't know anything about her, if she wore glasses, or had false teeth."
Embrey was the second to last of eight children who grew up on a farm near Maywood.
"Her dad died in 1971," Danbom said. "If she had a problem with him, why didn't she contact someone after he died?"
According to Ainsworth, Embrey did attempt to contact her family once she had settled in the East.
"Her friend said Twylia told her she had written some letters to her sisters and they came back," Ainsworth said.
Kitt is planning a trip to visit the community where Twylia lived and died, and to meet her great-aunt's longtime friend.
"Someday, Grandma and I and Margie are going to meet her friend," Kitt said. "She has offered to show us where Twylia lived and where she is buried."
"She had a wonderful life," Kitt said. "She had a wonderful husband."
Kitt has spent the past two years trying to find out what happened to Embrey.
"I can't believe we have an ending," Kitt said.
Tomorrow: How three determined women solved the mystery of Twylia May Embrey.