Man Finds Long-Lost Birth Mother at Restaurant She Named After Him


All Col. Bruce Hollywood, now 57, could think is, “This is where it ends.”

A heart attack in the Pentagon parking lot had him laying on the ground thinking about the things he would never be able to do: help his son with college applications or thank his birth mother.

Thankfully, his initial thought didn’t turn out to be true. He was able to recover, but he had a newfound zeal to find his birth mother, let her know that he had lived a good life, and thank her. He wanted to write her a letter.

Hollywood was adopted by an American military couple, Edward and Eleanor Hollywood, who was stationed in Japan. His birth mother hoped that her child would have a better life in the U.S.

“I always knew I was adopted because I had Asian features and (my father) was an Irishman and (my mother) was a Norwegian lady, and they always told me, ‘We picked you out special. So you’re even more special than everyone else,'” he remembered.

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Eleanor encouraged him to find his birth mother while she was still alive. She even offered to pay for the plane ticket to Japan, but he was never interested. He was content with his life and didn’t think much about his adoption until his heart attack in 2005.

Armed with his birth mother’s family name, Hollywood contacted the Japanese Embassy. They weren’t able to help him. Not even a private detective was able to track down her down. He became discouraged and had given up hope.

As he sat at a wine bar at the Dulles International Airport waiting on a flight to a work conference, he met another military man traveling to the same conference. The two men began talking and realized that they had similar stories: Adm. Harry Harris also had a Japanese mother.

Harris offered to help him in his search, but Hollywood was skeptical. He responded, “You know what, you’re an admiral and all, but you can’t. I’ve been to the embassy. I’ve tried this, and you just can’t help any.” Harris persisted so Hollywood gave him all of the information he had, but he remained doubtful.

Less than two weeks later, Hollywood was sitting at work when his phone rang. It was the Japanese Embassy. “Colonel Hollywood we’re really pleased to tell you that we found your mother, Nobue Ouchi.”

He was so excited! He started asking them to help him write a well-translated letter, but the person on the other end of the phone stopped him. “There’s not going to be a letter. She’s going to call you at this phone number in 10 minutes, and she doesn’t speak English. Good luck!”

Frantic, Hollywood quickly found someone who could translate on a conference call. Minutes later, his phone rang. It was his mother.

After a few minutes of adjusting to the language barrier, Hollywood noticed how much his mother was crying. He asked the translator what was going on.

She responded, “Well, tomorrow is your mother’s 65th birthday, and the birthday present that she dreamed of her whole life is that you would come back to her.”

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She continued to tell Hollywood that his mother had never married “because she said in her heart there was only room for one man. And it was you, and she knew you would be back.”

The translator then told him something that he could hardly believe. His mother owned her own restaurant, named Bruce.

He remembers thinking, “This is either the most incredible story I’ve ever heard or this woman is crazy, and these things aren’t true.”

Apparently, Eleanor had found Nobue and given her a photo of Hollywood as a baby, told her his name, and promised to give him a good life. She cherished the photo ever since and decided to name her business after her son.

Ten days later, Hollywood was on a plane to meet his birth mother for the first time. Once they were reunited, Nobue was able to tell him everything he didn’t know about his birth and adoption.

Hollywood’s birth father was an American military man who had begun the process to marry Nobue, but he was sent home before the paperwork could be finished. He promised to call her as soon as he got home but didn’t follow through. When he did finally call, she couldn’t trust him and refused to talk to him. He never found out she was pregnant.

Nobue’s father offered to support her and her baby, but she knew that a mixed-race child would not have an easy life in Japan. That’s why she decided to give him up for adoption.

During Hollywood’s first visit, his mother could barely let him out of her sight. After returning from a run one day, he found her waiting for him extremely worried. The next day, she showed up wearing a tracksuit and insisted that she go with him. She just followed behind him on a bicycle.

Over the next three years, the reunited mother-son duo visited each other often. Nobue began learning English and Hollywood began learning Japanese.

They were able to build a close bond until Nobue died of a heart attack in 2009.

His reunion with Nobue not only gave him time to get to know his mother, but it also helped build his identity as a Japanese American, a community that he is now an active leader in.

He said, “The last 12 years, I finally became a Japanese American. Before that, I had no Japanese American identity. I just had Japanese American features.”

“But as I got integrated in this community, I ended up becoming incredibly proud of this heritage that I had.”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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