Family searching for long-lost brother
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.