SANDPOINT, Idaho — Al Beard of Sandpoint already had four sons of his own.
But when asked about recently finding out that he had a daughter too, the former Sandpoint High School football coach said, "I feel the best I've felt in my life."
After spending more than 30 years attempting to find her true father, Beard's daughter was finally able to connect with him. The two first spoke over the phone in April and finally met in person in Sandpoint last week.
"This is like the fairy tale ending," said Beard's daughter, Jill Benard, 42, of Las Vegas.
Benard, who was born in Southern California, says another man raised her and didn't find out that the man wasn't her biological father until she was 13. Beard, meanwhile, says he was never aware that he had a daughter until Benard recently contacted him.
Benard says she had spent years attempting to find out who her biological father was. Despite following several leads, and even hiring a private investigator at one point, her efforts were unsuccessful. Eventually, a family member suggested she contact Beard.
"My aunt had given me a couple of names of what she thought were my brothers," she said.
Benard then reached out to the men on Facebook, asking if Beard was their father. The two were then put in touch.
Benard would eventually learn that Beard was neighbors with her mother and aunt in Huntington Beach, California when she was born. Beard at the time was never told he was a father and had always assumed another man was Benard's father. When Benard was two, Beard moved away from the area to start a new career and family in Sandpoint.
After Benard had reconnected with Beard over the phone in April, the two agreed to take a DNA test to confirm Beard's fatherhood.
"I started crying," said Benard when learning of the positive DNA match. "It was pretty surreal. I had to step away from my office because I just broke down crying."
"At first, you wonder, 'Wow.' Then all the love just comes over you," Beard recalled of the moment when he heard the news. "I've got the daughter I've always wanted. We talked to each other. We cried."
Last week, Benard coordinated with her newfound half-brothers (Beard's four sons) to surprise Beard at his Sandpoint home.
"All of the sudden, the doorbell rings. A girl walks through the door and it's my daughter," said Beard. "It's like the greatest feeling you can ever feel. This was the best father's day weekend of my life."
Since then, the two have called and texted each other daily.
"He's the kindest, most loving, most thoughtful man. I feel like I hit the lottery," said Benard of her father.
"She's got my chin. I don't know if that's a good thing or not," joked Beard. "But it's good for her. She's beautiful to me. And I love her with all my heart."
Oddly enough, the two also share June 29 as their birthday.
"Just having a daughter is great, but to have her birthday on the same day is unbelievable," Beard said.
Benard, who has two children of her own, currently works as an executive in the casino industry in Las Vegas. Beard, who formerly coached football at Sandpoint High School, runs a building maintenance company in Sandpoint.
The two are planning to meet up again in Las Vegas next week where Beard will also meet his new grandchildren. While there, Beard also plans to marry his longtime girlfriend and have Benard attend the ceremony.
"I love her so much," Beard said of Benard. "She's my little girl. And I never had a little girl."