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Betty Morrell grew up never having known her mother. In fact, in 1933 officials declared Betty’s mother unfit to parent a child, and they took the baby away shortly after Betty’s birth.
So, adopted and given a different name, Betty began a new life hundreds of miles away. But when her parents passed away in the 1950s, Betty set out on a mission to discover the mother she had never known – and the journey it took her on was incredible.
In 1933 Lena Pierce was still a child herself when she gave birth to a baby named Eva May in Utica, New York. In fact, welfare workers thought the 13-year-old incapable of raising her daughter. As a result, Lena was forced to give up her baby. Indeed, a family in Long Island, NY, took baby Eva in and gave her the name Betty Morrell.
Fortunately, Betty enjoyed a happy childhood growing up with her adopted family. But when her adoptive parents died in the 1950s, the 21-year-old began to feel curious about the woman who had given birth to her.
Previoiusl, Betty’s adopted mother had told her that her birth mother had passed away long ago. But having now lost her adoptive parents, Betty longed to track down any brothers, sisters or other blood relatives who might still be alive.
So, by the time she was in her 30s, Betty had started to look for clues. In fact, an aunt had accidentally let slip that Betty’s birth name was Eva and that she was born in Utica, so Betty began to pull at the thread.
First, she wrote to the various hospitals in the area, making enquiries into their records. Finally, she hit the jackpot. One hospital confirmed the arrival of a baby named Eva May on Betty’s birthday, February 11, 1933.
Over the years, Betty began to piece together what little information she could gather about her family. But because her adoption records were sealed, she could only obtain certain information about her birth parents.
But in a letter she received from a social worker in 1983, Betty discovered that her mother Lena had been from a troubled home. She also learned that her grandmother had falsified documents so that a pregnant Lena could marry Betty’s father.
She further found out that her father had abandoned Lena before Betty was born and eventually ended up in jail. Plus, after a stint in hospital, Lena was sent to a training school, and Betty was placed in foster care.
But there the trail ran cold. Because of New York State laws, the social worker could not give Betty any information that would allow her to track down her birth family.
So Betty settled in Long Island and raised a family of her own, later retiring to Florida. But she never gave up on her quest to discover the truth about where she came from. In fact, 20 years ago, her grand-daughter Kimberly Miccio decided to help – and that’s when things began to get really interesting.
Just 12 years old when she began using the internet to try and uncover information, Kimberly was 32 when her endeavors finally paid off. Using a family history website, she made contact with a distant relative of Betty’s – and she certainly had a surprise in store.
In fact, the relative was able to put Kimberly in touch with Millie Hawk, Betty’s half sister. But that wasn’t all. Kimberly also discovered that, unexpectedly, Betty’s mother Lena Pierce was actually still alive – residing in an assisted living home at the age of 96.
“I rushed to my mother’s house to tell her,” Hawk said in an interview with the Associated Press. “She just sat down in a chair and cried. She said, ‘My Eva May, they found her?’ It was just so emotional.”
Nervously, Betty picked up the phone and made the call she’d thought about since she was a child. Her sister Millie answered, and the pair discovered an instant bond. And when her mother finally came on the phone, the connection was just as strong.
The family arranged a meeting, and Betty and Kimberly flew to Binghamton, NY. When they arrived at the airport, Lena was waiting to meet the daughter she hadn’t seen in 82 years.
The scene was emotional. “The minute I saw her come through the security door, I just got goosebumps,” recalled Hawk. “Mother reached for her; Betty said ‘Mom.’ They hugged and cried.”
Lena revealed that she too had been searching for Betty for all these years; she had never stopped thinking about the daughter she had never wanted to give up. Now, Betty and her family are making up for lost time. She talks to her sister Millie almost every day, and she speaks with her mother regularly on the telephone.
Despite all of the hardships, Betty’s story is ultimately an inspiring one. Her message to others wanting to track down their own families is clear: never give up.