Originally created 03/01/97

Father, daughter see each other after 51 years



The last time John C. Hall saw his daughter, he was a serviceman stationed in England during World War II. She was a 9-month-old baby.

On Friday, the 79-year-old Warrenville man got a second look - after more than half a century.

Mr. Hall sat in a small room at the BellSouth offices in Augusta and peered into the teary eyes of his daughter Frances Preece in Birmingham, England.

"You look great, Dad," said Mrs. Preece, 52. " Do I look like you, Dad?"

"You look beautiful," replied her father, a bit choked up himself. "Frances, I love you."

Their across-the-ocean conversation Friday morning - made possible by BellSouth and British Telecom - took place over a desktop video teleconference, where technology brought the two eye to eye.

Their electronic reunion was made even more emotional because Mrs. Preece is terminally ill from cancer and unsure how long she will live.

"You'll never know what this means to me," said Mr. Hall about the video linkup. "I think it's the greatest thing in my life."

Mrs. Preece, who received a passport Friday, plans to visit her father in two or three weeks if her health is good. "I'm going to bring you over some chocolates," she said before hanging up.

Friday's conversation was a family affair. Mr. Hall was surrounded by his wife, Esther, daughter Jean, and niece Becky Leopard. On the other side of the Atlantic, Mrs. Preece was with her husband, Mike, and friends and relatives.

Mr. Hall married an Englishwoman while overseas and had a daughter. Soon after his service was complete, the two divorced, and that was the last time he saw his daughter - more than a half-century ago.

"This puts a human face on technology," said Merle Temple, district manager of corporate and external affairs for BellSouth, who helped orchestrate the electronic meeting.