WALLAND, Tenn. (WVLT) - Leaves crunched beneath Quila's feet as she inched closer to the Little River, clutching her professional camera. Slowly, she brought the viewfinder to her eye, snapped the shutter, and tried again.
Quila Castiglione as a child, before she began searching for her biological father.
Quila is like most photographers, always searching for the perfect shot, "You just keep missing it. Maybe the lighting is wrong, you just keep trying to get there but it’s just beyond your reach."
For the better part of Quila's life, something else seemed just out of reach. More specifically, someone.
"I knew that the person I thought was my father was not my father. There were chunks of my life that were really hard, and it would have been a lot better to have that support, that love," Quila explained.
From her home in Michigan Quila spent six years scouring the internet. She posted on Facebook, "Please share this post so that I may know who my father is or was."
Quila also entered her DNA into a genetic database through the website 23&me and searched for matches. Finally, she found a cousin who put her in touch with the man she'd been searching for.
“I went into my assistant manager’s office and I can’t even really talk and said, 'I think I found my dad'," Quila recalled.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, another photographer was also searching for a Kodak moment.
Bob Castiglione unpacked his own sophisticated camera from a padded case and started shooting what he called, "Nature's splendor."
With Mt. Leconte in the distance, Bob noted the beauty of, "The clouds coming down on the mountain over there."
Each click of the shutter offered a snapshot of Bob settling into retirement. But one click to open an email snapped him right out of it. A message from Quila made him realize he had a new job, as her dad.
"The first thing I did was go over to my wife and I said, 'Does she look like she could be mine?' and she goes, 'Yeah.' Because she looked so much like me," Bob said.
A true shock for Bob considering, "We tried to have kids and we were unsuccessful. I had a problem, low sperm count, low motility. I thought I could never have a kid unless I had corrective surgery or something like that."
So naturally Bob had no idea she existed. But interestingly, Quila had always known his face, "I scanned my biological mother’s entire military album. I just remember seeing his birthmark and thinking, I’ve seen his face before. I have a picture of him."
Bob knew the picture. "It was a dinner party. I just laid down on the floor and I think I was watching TV and I fell asleep."
"It all brought it together for me, I had had a picture the whole time," Quila realized.
Quila learned she was the product of a short lived military romance. "I never saw him in the air force. I never saw him fly a plane. I never was part of it."
Phone conversations and emails continued before Quila and Bob decided to meet. It was early summer of 2017. Neither of the two photographers were snapping photos when they first met at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville. However, Bob's wife Carol was recording the moment on her cellphone.
Quila said, "He just looked so adorable standing there like, 'I’m your dad!' This is what I've waited for for so long."
But, Quila said there's a certain sadness hanging in the shadows of this story, "You now know exactly what you missed out on. You know what you lost. Time. You can’t get back time. My life events, their life events, we all missed 36 years of it."
The biggest miss came when both of Bob's parents died just before Quila found him.
"They’ll never know I existed. They’ll never know about me. That’s been the hardest I think for me. Finding out they’re these great people and they’ll never know me and I’ll never know them."
Quila has come to know Bob and his wife Carol as mom and dad.
"It's nice to have a sounding board. We talk about her father, and that's fun. Yeah we gang up on him. I never had anyone to gang up on him with," Carold mused.
Quila changed her birth certificate. It lists Bob and Carol as her parents, and changes her last name to Castiglione, "Now I have a birth certificate with dad and mom, and I got a new last name. I got the name I was always meant to have."
For two photographers who are always searching for the picture of a lifetime, the perfect shot developed when Quila found Bob and both of them stepped into frame.
Bob said, "She's my finest work. It was one of those pictures that you take that came out and it was perfect."
Quila said it's one, "You want to capture it and keep it forever."
Bob didn't just find his daughter. He found the chance to be a grandfather. In the weeks after filming, Bob told WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara that Quila was expecting twins.
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