Months after first meeting at airport, Aspen residents realize they’re cousins
August 19, 2014
What are the odds of meeting a relative, for the first time, at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and not even realizing it for several months?
"It doesn't get much more small-world than that," said Marc Ostrofsky, an author and part-time Aspen resident.
Ostrofsky, his wife, Beverle, and their two dogs had just landed in Aspen in June and were looking to catch a taxi, but there was only one at the airport, and Joshua Rossignol, a local hairstylist at Salon Myo Aspen, was about to get in it.
Rossignol saw the couple and offered to share the taxi with them. The three struck up a conversation on the way to Aspen, and Rossignol gave Beverle Ostrofsky his business card. The two are now good friends, but their friendship elevated recently after Marc Ostrofsky made his second visit to Rossignol for a haircut.
As Ostrofsky was making small talk with Rossignol, he mentioned how he'd rather be in Aspen in the rain than in the heat and humidity he grew up with in Houston.
Rossignol said he had Marc beat because he grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana.
"I agreed and told Josh I had been to Lafayette once when I was a kid," Ostrofsky said. "I told him I had some family in that area that owned a local business called Welcher's Men's Shoes, and Josh went white in the face."
Rossignol stopped cutting Ostrofsky's hair and asked him, "What did you just say?"
Ostrofsky repeated what he said, and Rossignol stared at him in total disbelief.
Ostrofsky could see something was wrong and asked Rossignol if he was OK.
"That's my family's business," Rossignol said.
Rossignol thought Ostrofsky was joking at first but soon realized that wasn't the case.
"I had goosebumps," Rossignol said. "When it was clear he wasn't kidding, I still couldn't believe it. We have a small family, as my grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and I thought I knew all our family members, but not that one branch."
Ostrofsky and Rossignol then made calls to their respective family members and came to the conclusion that their grandparents were first cousins, making them third cousins.
"Both of our mothers had the maiden name of Welcher," Ostrofsky said. "What are the odds we would meet Josh at the airport, and on top of that, what are the odds our conversation would take us where it did? It's literally unbelievable."
Ostrofsky's sister, Dr. Keri Pearlson, lives in Texas and knows the entire Ostrofsky family tree. She also knows much of the family history and explained how the two clans connected.
The Ostrofskys' great-grandfather, Clemmons Welcher, sponsored his brother, Abraham, to come to the U.S. from Europe. Clemmons had a son named Arthur Welcher, who was a cousin of Abraham's son, Alex Welcher. Alex Welcher and his wife, Julia, are both Holocaust survivors and moved to Lafayette, where Alex began the family shoe business.
Alex and Julia Welcher had a daughter, Isabel, who is Rossignol's mother.
One of Arthur Welcher's daughters, Shirley, married Ben Ostrofsky, and they are the parents of Marc and Keri Ostrofsky, making Rossignol and Marc Ostrofsky third cousins.
"When Marc told me he met Joshua, I thought he was kidding," Pearlson said. "Family is very important to me, and I had already reached out to Josh's side of the family. In fact, Josh is the only family member on their side I hadn't met yet. We actually visited the Welcher Shoe Store when we were very young. I've been trying to hook Marc up with Josh's family with no success, but God works in mysterious ways. What an amazing story."
Rossignol said because his family is small to begin with, finding a relative in Aspen was mind-boggling.
"You never know in life the path that will lead to such an amazing discovery," Rossignol said. "Now I have family in Aspen. How cool is that? On top of everything, the Ostrofskys are such nice people. We hit it off right away. I couldn't have picked nicer relatives."