A Family United
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to learn, as an adult, that you had a sister whom you had never met. That’s exactly what happened to Kathy Newland, of Sheffield, Vermont, when a friend divulged the information unexpectedly. Mrs. Newland and
her brother, Russell Bassett, of North Hatley, were finally reunited with that sister just a few weeks ago, after a twenty year search.
“When my friend told me I had a sister who had been adopted out I was in my forties; at that point I had no idea. So I started doing research on the internet and got information about how to look for a sibling,” explained Mrs. Newland in an interview at the home of Mr. Bassett. Kathy began trying to get information about her sister but her searching kept leading to dead ends. She continued to have hope.
Norma Canning, that long-lost sister who flew in from White Rock, British Colombia, to meet her new siblings, continued the story: “In 2010, I applied to the Batshaw Society to try to find out who my parents were. There is normally a five-year wait but, because I had breast cancer, I was fast-tracked.” She soon learnt, in the same year, the identity of her parents and that they were both dead, with no mention of any siblings.
What happened next, which ultimately lead to the happy family reunion, the three siblings are still trying to figure out. “I got a call from someone at the Batshaw Society in 2011. They wanted to know if Edith Bassett was my mother but they didn’t tell me why. I told them yes,” said Mr. Bassett. That investigator with the Batshaw Society also called Kathy, in 2011, to confirm if Edith Bassett was her mother.
Norma continued: “In May of 2012, someone from the Batshaw Society called me and asked if I had been told that I had a sister; it had been an oversight in 2010 that noone told me that a sibling was looking for me. I said ‘No’; I went into shock. So when they asked me if I was interested in a reunion, I said I would think about it.” “You see, I had known that I had a sister for twenty years, but Norma was completely blind-sided,” added Kathy sympathetically.
As the weeks following that fateful phone call passed, the news that Norma had a sister was becoming “less and less important.” “Then my first grandson was born and I started to feel a little curious. I spoke with my children about possibly meeting my sister – they just wanted me to be safe. But I figured that if someone can be looking for a sis- ter for twenty years, there must be something very tenacious in her character,” commented Norma.
A first phone call was made between the two sisters, then a few more. “Then I decided to just jump on a plane. By then I had learnt that I also had a half-brother, Fluff (Mr. Bassett’s nickname), and I wanted to meet him, too. I had never had a brother (in her adopted family). He’s in his eighties and I wanted to make sure he was safe, happy and comfortable,” Norma explained. “Now he has two women looking after him!” joked Kathy. “Yeah, two women telling me what to do,” added Russell with a smile.
Asked about how they felt when they first met each other, Norma went first: “It was so exciting, almost indescribable the feeling you have. I had lots of fears, too, about meeting them.” “It’s uncanny how much alike we are. I can see the same mannerisms, a certain same- ness that’s hard to describe. We are just one year and one week apart in age. My daughter just came up from West Virginia to meet her aunt; she just loved her. And Norma has four sons and we can’t wait to meet them,” commented Kathy who is already planning a trip out west.
About twenty years older than his sisters, Mr. Bassett seemed to be taking it all in stride: “I first spoke with Norma over the phone. I just told her a few dirty jokes and we became friends right away. I don’t know what I’m going to do with her now!”
Searching for one’s biological parents or siblings takes a certain amount of faith and a lot of courage, especially in the case of children who have been put up for adoption. “When I first started looking for my parents, I started hearing stories from friends about people never finding their relatives, or finding them and getting rejected again; it’s not always a happy ending,” said Norma, seriously.
“The reason we wanted to come forward is to say that if people find out they’re adopted, whether they’re young or old, and they want to find their relatives, don’t give up. There’s always hope,” added Kathy.
Norma had the last word: “Kathy is the true hero in this story: to search for a sister for all those years. Of course, we’re all just family now!”
Kathy Newland and Russell Bassett, at left, finally met their sister, Norma Canning (right), in a happy family reunion after more than sixty years.