Fam­ily search­ing for long-lost brother

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - VA­LERIE FORTNEY vfort­ney@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/val­fort­ney

De­spite wait­ing years to meet his brother, Lance Mor­row ad­mits he still doesn’t have a pre­pared script for the mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion.

“Wow,” he says Mon­day when I ask him what he first wants to say to the man whose ex­is­tence he never knew about un­til a few years ago. “I re­ally don’t know, to be hon­est.”

He has no doubt, though, about what he’ll do. “I’ll give him a big hug,” says the 53-year-old res­i­dent of Sur­rey, B.C., a hap­pily mar­ried fa­ther of two girls.

While Mor­row has spent most of his adult life on the West Coast, the jour­ney to find his fam­ily’s miss­ing puz­zle piece has re­cently taken him back to the province of his birth, Al­berta, in the form of ap­peals in more than 100 com­mu­nity news­pa­pers.

It’s a fa­mil­iar story to the thou­sands of Cana­di­ans who each year reach out in hopes of mak­ing con­tact with blood rel­a­tives they’ve never met.

Yet Mor­row’s case stands out and not just for his pub­lic and ex­pan­sive search, one that also in­cludes news­pa­pers in the N.W.T.

His fam­ily search story is one with epic el­e­ments, com­bin­ing ev­ery­thing from Stam­pede Wrestling, the ’60s Scoop of In­dige­nous chil­dren and the quest, like that of so many of his fel­low Cana­di­ans, to con­nect with an ances­try long hid­den from them.

Mor­row’s own story be­gan in Calgary in 1964, where he was born seven years af­ter his mom Con­nie Ethier mar­ried Cecil Mor­row. “My par­ents split up when I was only about four,” he says, “and my mom moved to B.C. with me and my younger sis­ter, Michele.”

It was a strug­gle for a sin­gle mom try­ing to care for two young ones. “She worked at a pulp mill,” he says, where a work­place ac­ci­dent left her a quad­ri­plegic. “Life was a strug­gle, but she al­ways did the best she could for us.”

Just be­fore her death in 2002, Mor­row learned about Con­nie’s se­crets — her child born in 1957 among them. “She’d told my sis­ter that we had a brother,” says Mor­row, whose mother also said she was In­dige­nous.

He tried to talk to his mom about it, but she wouldn’t say any­thing more on the sub­ject. Af­ter her death, Mor­row, with the help of his wife, Kim Ras­berry, be­gan to dig for more in­for­ma­tion about Con­nie, who turned out was from the N.W.T. ham­let of Aklavik. “She said she was from ‘up north,’ and we al­ways thought that meant Ed­mon­ton,” he says.

Not only that, for a time she was a “gal wrestler” with the famed Stam­pede Wrestling or­ga­ni­za­tion, her name men­tioned in a 1953 edi­tion of the Ed­mon­ton Jour­nal, when she per­formed be­fore a crowd of 7,000 in that city.

Reach­ing out to fam­ily mem­bers — the more ex­tro­verted Ras­berry tracked them down and made first phone con­tact — also turned up a great-aunt who won the Or­der of Canada and a grea­tun­cle who was a Gwich’in First Na­tions chief.

“They’re quite ex­cited about it,” says Mor­row of daugh­ters Emma, 13 and Ava, 10, who have em­braced their newly dis­cov­ered In­dige­nous roots.

Still, his brother’s fate has long trou­bled Mor­row and his wife, who sus­pect he may have been swept up in the ’60s Scoop, when thou­sands of Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren were taken from their moth­ers and placed for adop­tion or in foster homes.

He was born in Al­berta, pos­si­bly Calgary, in March 1957, says Mor­row of his brother, who was adopted by a con­struc­tion fore­man and his Scot­tish wife; at the time, the cou­ple had another son, only seven months old. An in­quiry into Al­berta’s post-adop­tion reg­istry con­firmed Mor­row’s brother’s ex­is­tence.

“Then, my mom mar­ried my dad three months later,” he says. Hav­ing been es­tranged from his fa­ther most of his life, Mor­row wasn’t able to con­firm any of the in­for­ma­tion with him; his step­fa­ther, he says, knew noth­ing of Con­nie’s early life.

Ras­berry adds: “Some­thing in my gut tells me the baby was taken from her. We think she didn’t tell her kids she was Abo­rig­i­nal, for fear they’d be taken too.”

Mor­row hopes that by blan­ket­ing the province with ads seek­ing out his brother, along with speak­ing to the news me­dia, some­one will rec­og­nize the de­tails enough to form a match.

While he’s yet to write out that in­tro­duc­tion script, Mor­row knows that af­ter the first hug, there is some­thing he wants to say: “I’d tell him what a great per­son our mother was,” he says, “and that I’m sure if she had had her way, she would have kept him.”

Lance Mor­row and his wife Kim Ras­berry, with daugh­ters Ava and Emma and fam­ily friend Alex, left. While Mor­row has spent most of his adult life in B.C., the jour­ney to find his fam­ily’s miss­ing piece has taken him back to his Al­berta birth­place in the form of ap­peals in more than 100 com­mu­nity news­pa­pers.

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