A consultation with 69-year-old Mesa resident Delite Gaddie at the Highland Games and Clan Gathering is, for some, merely a way to connect with their past. For others, it unlocks information about their present.
Florence resident Jim McWhorter’s first visit with Gaddie led to the discovery of a hereditary coronary condition that threatened both himself and his relatives. By tracing his genealogy, the 68-year-old located and contacted three relatives to warn them of the imminent danger of a heart attack.
“It was a horrible problem that I never knew about,” he said. “It all started when I had a conversation with this lady.”
The Highland Games this weekend will bring together the Valley’s Scottish community and about 15,000 of their closest friends. The event features everything from the caber toss — in which athletes heave a log the size of a telephone pole — to gentler features such as Gaddie’s genealogy exploration.
McWhorter referred to his initial meeting with Gaddie three years ago, the first time he attended the Highland Games. The longtime athlete had recently suffered a heart attack. This perplexed him, since he had always been in peak physical condition and was not aware of a family history of heart problems.
A stop at Gaddie’s tent started McWhorter on a voyage of self-discovery. He followed the lineage of a father he never knew and found a severe medical condition passed through the bloodline. McWhorter was able to track down several relatives on his father’s side.
“They never knew how to contact me or that I even existed.” McWhorter said.
Gaddie was hesitant to accept credit for McWhorter’s life-saving discovery. Saturday in the shade of her tent, she calmly went about tracing the heritage of Highland Games visitors, surrounded by wailing bagpipes, flinching as the occasional cannon shot disrupted her reverie.
As an accredited genealogist, Gaddie has been contracted by the Arizona Supreme Court on occasion. She first learned about genealogy through her mother and has traced five generations of her husband’s ancestors back to Scotland.
She now works with people like McWhorter for free, using information available on the Internet, such as census records and death notices.
“I’m very humbled by him giving me credit,” she said.
What: 42nd Annual Highland Games and Clan Gathering
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today
Where: Mesa Community College, 1833 W. Southern Ave.
Admission: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children ages 5 to 15. Children under 5 are admitted free