A Fam­ily United

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, New­land VT

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!”

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Kathy New­land and Rus­sell Bas­sett, at left, fi­nally met their sis­ter, Norma Can­ning (right), in a happy fam­ily re­union af­ter more than sixty years.

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