Seven Siblings, Mother United For First Time
May. 10, 1986
McKEES ROCKS, Pa. (AP) _ Seven brothers and sisters, separated since early childhood by adoption, gathered with their mother for an emotional reunion Saturday, the first time in their lives that they've all been together.
''Everybody's a little nervous,'' Barbara Sherburne of Wallingford, Conn., said from the home of one of her three brothers in this suburban Pittsburgh community.
''It's kind of strange meeting somebody for the first time,'' she said. ''It's awfully hard to explain, but somebody who's your mother or brother ... that's hard to do when you're 36 years old.''
The four sisters and three brothers, all in their 30s and 40s, spent the day taking pictures and catching up on a lifetime of news. There were two cakes - one for three siblings' birthdays during the past week and one for Mother's Day.
''We don't have any special event planned because this is a special event,'' said Ms. Sherburne, a secretary. ''It's a very strong phenomenon, the biological ties. I didn't expect it.''
Born to George Arndt, a coal miner, and his wife, Gladys, Ms. Sherburne and her twin sister, Nancy Sherburne, were put up for adoption in February 1950 when they were 3 months old.
They were the fifth and sixth children for the couple.
''It was money. We didn't have much of anything for them to eat. I wanted to make sure they had good homes,'' said their 72-year-old mother, Gladys Lynn, who divorced Arndt and later remarried.
''He worked whenever he could,'' said George Arndt Jr., 43, a draftsman in McKees Rocks who remained with his parents along with two older sisters.
The twins were adopted by a Connecticut family. A brother, Eddie Althouse, 41 and a night crew supervisor at a supermarket and living in Warren, Ohio, was nearly 5 when he was adopted by an Ohio family. The youngest, David Chisler, 35 and a prison corrections officer in Florence, Ariz., was adopted at 6 months by a family in the Pittsburgh suburb of Allison Park.
It wasn't until Barbara Sherburne's adoptive mother died that she began searching for her natural parents. She obtained a copy of her birth certificate and learned her natural parents' name was Arndt.
In 1978, she found a listing in a Pittsburgh telephone directory for George Arndt. She carried the number for nearly four years before summoning up the courage to call.
''I said I was doing a genealogical survey for a friend,'' she recalled. ''I said I had all this information, and the only thing I needed to check out was one family branch and would he mind answering a few questions. He kept saying, 'Who are you, who are you?'
''After we went through this for 10 minutes, I told him, 'I have reason to believe you're my brother.' He was silent for about 10 minutes.''
By then, their father had died. The two approached their mother, who helped them track down the remaining two adopted children. The two oldest children, Beverly Steele, 47, and Sandra Warnick, 45, lived near Pittsburgh.
Five of the seven children gathered last August at their mother's home in nearby Duquesne. Missing were Chisler and Nancy Sherburne, a typesetter in Tucson, Ariz.
For Chisler, it was an especially important day because he saw his mother, three sisters and a brother for the first time.
''It was something I had thought about for a long time,'' he said. ''It was fantastic. Seeing her and seeing the family was a thrill I'll never forget.''