Finding a Friend: IL woman searches for missing piece from her past

MOUNT VERNON, IL (KFVS) - Childhood friendships are priceless, and you never forget them.

An Illinois woman is on a mission to find a friend she met during one of the most difficult times of both of their lives.

One of you may even be able to help solve this mystery.

"It's something I've always held onto, it's going to be 54 years now," said Connie Smith.

Five decades is a long time to wonder about someone she met at just three years old.

The story begins in 1963 when Connie Smith was a sick little girl.

"I started showing symptoms before we were even tested...fevers, cough, losing weight," said Smith.

The test results came back and confirmed she had Tuberculosis.

Connie was taken to the TB Sanitarium in Mount Vernon, Illinois.

"I remember being alone in the hospital, and I remember the treatments, the tubes, the needles, the being held down," said Smith.

She was there for several months, possibly even a year. Most of the memories are unpleasant.

Just imagine a three-year-old, confused and all alone.

"As far as other children, was just me. I was by myself," said Smith.

That is until another little girl was admitted to a room right across the hall from Connie.

"I couldn't play with her for a long time because she was under quarantine."

Connie couldn't wait to meet her.

"So I was able at that point to go into the hallway and sit outside her door and we would pretend to play," said Smith.

Finally, a couple of months later, they got to see each other without a barrier between them.

"She was sweet, that's what I remember about her, and she was somebody to play with," said Smith.

If she closes her eyes, Connie said she can still see her face.

"Her big eyes...that's what I remember," said Smith. "She was really sweet, but I really remember her pretty eyes."

All Connie has is one photograph of her and the other little girl. She doesn't have any other mementos from that scary time in her life.

She said the little girl was her only friend in the world at the time.

"I'd say she was a year younger than me at least."

She doesn't remember her name but said he was possibly two years old at the time, making her in late 50s today.

Connie wants to find her.

"I wondered if she survived and how she's doing, what kind of life she's had, just curious," said Smith.

She started out with posting a picture on her Facebook page.

She just recently got on Facebook and was very hesitant to post the photo because she is a very private person.

It goes to show how much this means to her.

"It is very important to me," said Smith.

Her initial post got close to 200,000 shares.

"I appreciate everyone who shared it," said Smith. "I'm hoping she would see it and know that was her or her family would see it and say we know that's her and recognize her and know that's her so I can see her again."

The TB hospital in Mount Vernon closed in 1974.

It was later torn down, and all that remains today is the flag pole with a cross on top.

Connie sees that as a sign.

For years, she has kept the photo of her friend in her Bible hoping and praying that one day she will find her.

"It's just always been something that I've wanted to know, that's all something I've been curious about her and wondered if she remembered me may be," said Smith.

After checking with the state and local health departments and local hospitals, no one knows where the records are from 1963 at the TB sanitarium.

Even so, we don't have a name.

Connie hopes her photograph goes viral and someone out there recognizes her long-lost friend.

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