Amazing Adoption Reunion Story, To Start Your Week Right

Less than 2 weeks ago, “06880” highlighted a new state law, allowing adult adoptees the right to see their original birth certificate. The hook was John Suggs, a Westport forensic genetic geneaologist who helps adults find their birth families.

I figured the story would resonate with adoptees. I suspected some might contact John.

But I had no idea it would be so life-changing — and certainly not so quickly.

Almost immediately after the story ran, John received an email from a regular reader: Mary Lou Cookman (now Mary Lou Schmerker) of Texas.

John called her, and learned her story.

John Suggs

John Suggs

Mary Lou is a native Westporter — Staples High School Class of 1958 — who was transplanted to Texas in the early 1970s. She’d read the “06880” piece, and wondered if John could help.

She did not have the exact dates. But sometime in the mid-1950s, the daughter of a friend of her grandmother gave birth to a baby girl.

The baby’s father had left town. The baby’s mother had to wear a metal back brace, making it very difficult to care for the infant. The baby’s mother and widowed grandmother lived alone on Evergreen Avenue.

They received great help from their Westport friends — including Mary Lou’s family. All took turns helping care for the baby. For a while, the little girl lived in Mary Lou’s home.

Ultimately the birth mother accepted that she could not continue to care for her child. She made the wrenching decision to give her up for adoption.

Left behind in Mary Lou’s house was a sterling silver baby cup, engraved with the child’s initials. Around 4 decades ago, Mary Lou’s mother gave it to her for safekeeping.

Mary Lou still had that precious cup. She polished it regularly — always hoping to find a way to return it, and tell the owner how much she had been loved and adored, and how talented and special her mother and grandmother were.

John leaped into action.

Mary Lou provided a few names and personal details. In less than a week — despite starting with an incorrect birth date — our intrepid forensic genetic genealogist struck gold. The baby girl is now a grandmother named Linda Ogden. She still lives in Fairfield County.

Mary Lou quickly flew north from Texas. She carried the sterling silver baby cup on the plane. Yesterday afternoon, they were together for the first time in nearly 7 decades.

Linda Ogden (left), Mary Lou Schmerker, and the long-lost sterling silver baby cup.

Linda Ogden (left), Mary Lou Schmerker, and the long-lost sterling silver baby cup.

Mary Lou — the only living person left who personally knew Linda’s birth mother and grandmother — told stories about them. She assured Linda that both women loved her dearly.

And she gave back the sterling silver baby cup that had been left behind in Westport, all those years ago.

Linda Ogden, John Suggs and Mary Lou Schmerker share a laugh yesterday.

Linda Ogden, John Suggs and Mary Lou Schmerker share a laugh yesterday.

20 responses to “Amazing Adoption Reunion Story, To Start Your Week Right

  1. We’re definitely starting the week right, Dan. Thanks for the good story.

  2. Eileen Lavigne Flug

    John, this is amazing and wonderful. You are doing such important work, giving people back some of their history and identity. What an angel you are to them. Thanks for sharing these stories with 06880.
    Eileen

  3. Robert Weiss

    This is an amazing story and we should be all be grateful for the work of Mr. Suggs and to 06880 for continuing to follow his work. I hope we’ll be reading many more stories like this. Thank you!

  4. What a heartwarming story!

  5. Wow! A remarkable story on so many levels illustrating the impact of: the terrific work of John Suggs, the new state law, the way “06880” reaches so many former Westporters, and, of course, how the Internet has brought people together in ways that were unimaginable years ago. And, who doesn’t like a happy ending?

  6. PS–somewhat related to my point above: I heard from someone who read your post last week on the Coleytown El scrapbook. She was realiy delighted because one of the scrapbook photos clippings you published had a picture of her older brother (and, apparently, she had very few childhood photos of the brother which, I guess, was not uncommon then). So it was a very welcome addition to their family history.

  7. You’re right – a great start to the week. Thanks, Dan. I’m listening to Alexander McCall Smith’s book The Forgotten Affairs of Youth read by Davina Porter (a Westporter, I believe). Just finished a section about an adopted child finding her father.

  8. So heart-warming! Way to go John!

  9. What an awesome story, and one that we will be hearing more about when the Connecticut legislature finishes the great work it started with PA 14-133, giving original birth certificate access to those born and adopted in Connecticut after October 1, 1983. Everyone understands the deep, human need to know where we come from that never goes away, as Linda and Mary can attest! Geneologists like John Suggs do the work of piecing together small pieces of history, a job that will be made much easier when ALL Connecticut adoptees have the legal right to their true identity. Our grassroots group Access Connecticut will be seeking full restoration of adoptee rights in the 2016 session. Anyone who wants to support our work still has time to contribute to our crowd funding campaign at http://www.startsomegood.com/adopteerights, and sign up for our email newsletter at http://www.accesssconnecticut.org. And thank-you Dan for covering this locally important cause! Karen Caffrey, President, Access Connecticut Now, Inc.

  10. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker

    I can’t say enough wonderful things about John Suggs, his incredibly hard and fast work to make this reunion happen. I am still processing all the wonderful emotions. I hope that this will give hope to anyone who is searching for a birth parent or child or who needs or wants to trace their genetic line. And than you Dan. It would not have happened with out O6880, Where Westport does in deed, Meet the World.

  11. What a heartwarming story. Congratulations to John for reuniting the family!

  12. One could not write this – and yet here it is. Well done, Mr. Suggs. And Dan, thanks, as always, for setting the table.

  13. What an amazing and beautiful story!! It brought tears to my eyes, as I’m sure it did many others, and I want to express my happiness about the reunion to and for Mary Lou (a former classmate) and Linda. Mr. Suggs has found a wonderful calling, and I’m sure he’s heard many words of gratitude for his work.

  14. morgan zo callahan

    Wonderful, uplifting story of human heart & spirit.Thank you, Dan.
    John, you are a brilliant, compassionate forensic genetic genealogist!

  15. Charles Walke

    What a great story, full of joy, thanks to the patience and skill of John Suggs, who did it all!

  16. This story is so moving and uplifting. As a former classmate in Westport of Mary, I am not at all surprised — she is just that caring and special a person. What a wonderful reunion and special thanks to John Suggs for his work and dedication.

  17. Another good job John! As I know from personal experience you are a master at your craft. AMDG. Jim Donovan

  18. John, great work! What a heart warming story. You are making a difference helping adoptees answer questions they have struggled with for years or decades. Keep up your passionate and compassionate work.
    John Aldrian

  19. Wonderful story.
    Takes a certain kind of individual to be suited for this type of work. You’ve got to possess a combination of tenacity and compassion. Perfect fit for John.

  20. I have come late to the story but in fact, it is never too late to have your heart opened as this story opened mine. John Suggs is one of the nicest men you will ever meet and we are lucky to have him and his family in our town.