At 88, woman reunites with son after more than seven decades

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'Age-Positivity' Could Be the Key to a Long Life

It’s a reunion 71 years in the making.

Jean Stapp, 88, of Ringgold, grew up as a preacher’s daughter. When she discovered she was pregnant at 16, she had to place her baby up for adoption. This weekend, she’ll reunite with her baby, who is now in his 70s.

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“My mother was so strict, and she didn’t want anybody to look down on our family, so we had to go somewhere else to have the baby,” Stapp told WRCBtv.

Stapp, her mother and her mother’s friend left Ringgold for Seattle. Those in their hometown believed they went for medical reasons. Stapp has lived in Ringgold her whole life and went back after having her son.

“After I had it, I wasn’t allowed to see him,” Stapp said. “People was there to take him. As soon as he was born, they took him.”

Stapp kept her son, Patrick Sherman, a secret from everyone — her husband of 51 years included.

Sherman lives in Washington state and he has been hoping to connect with his birth mother. He joined Ancestry.com in 2016 to try to do so.

“Hope kind of died down, didn’t really think anything would come out of it,” said Adawna Ruthart, Sherman’s oldest daughter.

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Little did he know, hope would come this year.

Stapp’s granddaughter, Donna Afman, submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com in December. When her results returned in March, she found she had a close relative she’d never heard about. It turned out to be Patrick Sherman.

Afman and Sherman connected, not knowing how they’re related. Afman discovered Jane Doe Bell was on Sherman’s birth certificate. Then, she remembered Bell was her grandmother’s maiden name. When Afman asked Stapp about it, that’s when Stapp told her family about what happened when she was 16.

With a weight lifted, birth mother and son had a phone call.

“I kept telling Donna ‘What am I going to say? What am I going to say when he calls?” Stapp said.

Ruthart recalled her dad being “so nervous,” noting it “was the sweetest, sweetest thing.”

“I had not seen him that happy I don’t think ever,” she said.

The reunion will continue this weekend when Patrick flies to Ringgold to meet Stapp in person along with her three other children.

Ancestry.com has helped families reunite for years.

Long-lost brothers Norman and Gerry Cooper reunited after Gerry’s son conducted some family research. Neither brother was aware of the other before then. Gerry said discovering he had a brother after 85 years was “the most amazing feeling you can have in this world.”

AncestryDNA has also been responsible for connecting former Kennesaw State University students Kieron Christian Graham and Vincent Ghant. After discovering they were brothers, they reunited after 20 years in 2017.

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