Adopted siblings reunite after 5 decades

SAND SPRINGS, Okla. (AP) — Sue Ellen Leonard Thurber has spent more than four decades searching for her long-lost adopted siblings. Recently, she was reunited with her little sister.

Thurber’s search began in high school when she decided to look for four of her siblings who were, along with herself, given up for adoption in Oklahoma City in 1962.

Since then, Thurber has been able to meet two of those siblings in person.

She met her oldest brother, Fredrick Wayne Hull, in 1995, after he found her while doing an area search for people with her maiden name, Gray.

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On Sunday, Oct. 9, Thurber and Hull were reunited with their younger sister, Robin Lynn Jemison, who Thurber was able to track down through DNA testing and

Jemison said she was “excited and scared” as she and her husband, Robert, drove 2½ hours from Tishomingo for the reunion at Thurber’s home in Sand Springs.

Upon her arrival, she was greeted with heartfelt hugs and happy tears.

The Tulsa World ( ) reports Jemison was 7 months old the last time her siblings saw her. Thurber was 4 years old and Hull, the oldest of the bunch, was 5, when they were given up for adoption. They’re still looking to reunite with their brother Ricky Charles, who was 1 ½, and their sister, Carla Jean, who was 3.

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Thurber said the separation was hard.

“I always had problems,” Thurber said, adding that she went through bullying as a child for being adopted. “I just grew up always wanting to find my siblings.”

Thurber and her four siblings were given up for adoption after their mother, Rose, called the Department of Human Services one day unbeknownst to their father, Kenneth, who was at work.

The children went through several foster homes before finally being adopted.

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Their parents lived in extreme poverty, Thurber said, and despite attempts from DHS to help the family’s situation, they struggled to raise five kids on such a low income.

But Thurber said she forgives her parents.

“Our parents loved us,” she said, adding that their mother struggled to learn parenthood as she herself was put into a Catholic orphanage as a child.

Their parents ended up having and raising four more children after moving to Minnesota, two of whom were present for the reunion on Sunday.

Thurber met the siblings she didn’t know she had when she was 19 and her adoptive parents found her birth parents living in Minnesota. Her youngest sister, Lisa Dianne, died from a tractor accident when she was 9 before she could meet her.

Now, all of the children live in Oklahoma, and try to spend holidays together and stay in touch.

Hull said the reunions with his siblings have brought peace to his life.

“I knew I was adopted, but I didn’t really talk about it because it was such a traumatic experience for me,” Hull said, adding that the experience led to him having trust issues. He also said that his memories from before the adoption had been involuntarily erased as a means to deal with the trauma.

But then he decided to do something about. That’s when he found Thurber.

“To me it answered a lot of questions in my life,” Hull said.

Jemison said she also found difficulty after learning about her adoption.

“When I was a teenager, I kind of was like ‘Well, did they just not want me?’?” Jemison said of her parents. “I kind of had this vision of just being chunked out because they didn’t want me anymore.”

Thurber said she can relate.

“Adoption does that to you,” Thurber said. “You just always have that void, like a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces aren’t there.”

Their mother died in 1990 from leukemia, Thurber said, while their father died in 2010 from diabetes and heart complications.

Even though Hull never got to meet his mother, he said, he finds solace in the family he has now.

“We are brothers and sisters, and that’ll never change,” Hull said.

Hull, who now lives in Broken Arrow, gets together with Thurber about once every two weeks to catch up.

Their siblings who were born in Minnesota now all live in Oklahoma. Their brother, Ralph Dean Gray, lives with his wife, Jeanneatte, in Yukon. Their sister, Kelly Ann Gray, lives in Norman. Their brother, Mark Allen Gray, lives in Cement.

Kelly and Ralph were both present Sunday for Jemison’s reunion.

Jemison grew up in the same adoptive home as their brother, Ricky Charles, who has been living in Texas somewhat estranged. They hope to reunite with him as well as find their sister, Carla Jean.

But while the search for their sister continues, Hull said, he is embracing his new family.

“Today, it feels weird, but I know within myself that we have to learn to get to know each other,” Hull said. “We’re starting the process all over now.”

Anyone with information about Carla Jean is encouraged to call Thurber at 918-521-7480. Carla Jean’s birth date is Oct. 11, 1958.


Information from: Tulsa World,