It has always fascinated me, this idea of connectivity – people with distant commonalities or a shared history — meeting on chance. “It’s a small world” we exclaim when this occurs – as it did for me recently with Arlington’s Suzanne Fleming Duke.
Suzanne is a long-time friend of my brother Del McAmis and the two of us reconnected when I returned to Arlington. At coffee with Suzanne recently, we had one of those “small world” experiences. As we spooled out our histories, we learned that our families had a shared history as immigrants and as settlers in the little town of Olney, Texas, about 100 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
The recent burial of my father in a family plot in Olney had triggered our discussions. The McAmis clansmen were Scots-Irish and immigrated first to Tennessee, then Oklahoma, then Ft. Worth. We believe the Kerrs were of English descent that settled into Olney, Texas and farmed there for generations. Around 1919 Robert Wesley McAmis and Yvonne Kerr married and in 1920 my Dad was their first born son.
Dad spent his summers on the Kerr farm, and during a time of a family illness, spent an entire school year there. It was not surprising for his last wish was to be buried in Olney, where so many of the Kerrs and McAmises are interred.
Suzanne’s family history is not so different. Her maternal grandparents, Shukri and Nabehah Hourani, immigrated from Syria (now Lebanon), fleeing their homeland from the Turks at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Shukri Americanized his name to Sam K. Hourany and settled his large family (8 children) first in Oklahoma and then in Archer City, Texas. Some of the family moved on to Olney, where many are buried.
Suzanne’s grandfather opened Horany’s Department Store in Archer City; her uncle opened Horany’s Department Store in Olney. It is very possible that my dad wandered into her uncle’s store in Olney oh so long ago, and by what strange force did the Horany and McAmis progeny discover each other decades later?
Years ago when traveling by air to a business meeting, I happened to read an article by scientist and science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov on this idea of coincidence. According to his writing, it is all about the mathematics of probability.
He wrote along these lines: When considering the rarity of a coincidence, people tend to compare the probability of such an event in terms of the whole world: out of the several billion people on the earth, what are the chances. But Asimov said that the math is wrong. In a lifetime, a person never meets billions of people. Coincidence should be measured by our real universe, which may be only several thousand people in a lifetime – and makes the coincidence less rare.
I am not convinced. Both our families were immigrants; they settled first in Oklahoma then moved to Texas; some of them moved to Olney, Texas, and many are buried there. And decades later, Suzanne and I discovered our connectivity. By my math, I think of all the decisions that our forebears made that landed them in Olney, Texas, and not in Damascus or Dublin or Dubuque; and all the decisions that Suzanne and I (and our immediate families) made that landed us in Arlington, and not in Augusta or Albany. And I marvel at the coincidence.
— Jonnie Martin