Siblings meet for first time - as senior citizens
By HEATHER OSBOURNE
Jul. 29, 2017
VALPARAISO, Fla. (AP) — Shelly Foster's heart raced as she knocked twice on a hotel door in Shreveport, Louisiana.
If the door opened, it would mean Foster had completed the last task written on her life-long bucket list. A task that read: "Meet someone who looks like you."
The 78-year-old Valparaiso woman said she always knew she was adopted.
However, it wasn't until she saw a birth certificate in the U.S. Air Force recruitment office in New Jersey that she saw a name she didn't recognize — Ruth Mary Anthes — and thought of searching for her biological family.
"I never knew what my birth name was until then," Foster said. "Seeing my biological name written down, it sparked something inside of me. It was then that I began the 60-year search for my biological family."
In the years following, Foster said wherever she traveled she would take time to search through phone books and public records for the last name Anthes.
"It was a lot harder to search for people back then," Foster said. "It wasn't until the computer age that we were able to really start searching."
Five years ago, she said, when she found her first clue — a 1940s Census record for a woman named Marion Anthes.
With the name she now believed was her mother's, Foster joined several ancestry websites in search of more information on Marion Anthes. Six weeks ago, she found a Florida obituary of a Marion Vanderwoude, with the maiden name of Anthes.
"It said she was survived by her son, Fredric Vanderwoude," Foster said. "That meant I had a half-brother."
Through a bit of cyberstalking, Foster's children were able to track down Vanderwoude, 76, at a remote trailer park in Breckenridge, Texas. After just one phone call with Foster's son, Vanderwoude, who had no idea he had a sister, agreed to take a DNA test.
"He was very cooperative and willing to believe it," Foster said. "Marion had kept him and raised him. He said he always wanted a brother or a sister."
Vanderwoude, however, was not raised by, nor had ever met, his biological father. He was instead adopted by his stepfather when he was just 6 years old.
To Foster's shock, the DNA test came back with a complete match - the siblings shared the same biological mother and father.
"As soon as I called and told him he said he wanted to give me a big squeeze," Foster said. "We just had to see each other. It was then we decided to meet halfway in Shreveport."
It was in the Shreveport hotel room where Foster and Vanderwoude embraced for the first time.
"I looked into his eyes and saw me," Foster said as her eyes swelled with tears. "We both had hazel eyes. He hugged me and said, 'Where have you been all of my life?'"
Foster learned her mother was adopted herself and became pregnant as a teenager. Foster speculates she gave her up for adoption because Anthes' adoptive parents were devout Catholics.
"I don't hold any bitterness towards her," Foster said. "She was an unwed Catholic girl giving birth to a child. That's what happened back then."
As Foster told her story, she held tightly to a necklace her newfound sister-in-law gave to her in Shreveport.
"It's a necklace my mother hand made," Foster said before breaking into tears. "Just having something of hers is overwhelming."
Now, Vanderwoude said he's making plans to move his family to Florida, where he will be closer to his sister. The siblings hope to make up for long-lost time by getting the entire family together sometime this year.
Foster said she's now making it her mission to find their biological father, whom neither sibling had ever met.
"Maybe we'll find some half siblings," Foster said. "Finding Fred was the last thing on my bucket list. Even if we don't find half-siblings, my life is now complete."
For Vanderwoude, however, he said there is no reason to search any further.
"We've got each other now," Vanderwoude told Shelly over the phone. "There's no reason to search for anything else."
Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), http://www.nwfdailynews.com