Friday, December 10, 2010

Armenian Adoption Adventure- Reunited after 46 years a beautiful Christmas Story

This story is from the Paradise newspaper. It is a tear jerker.

Reunited after 46 years
By Trevor Warner
Posted: 12/02/2010 01:00:00 AM PST

Click photo to enlargeParadise resident Mary Ellen Reed was recently reunited with her daughter, who... (By Trevor Warner)«1»Known for her work with young people through the Cinderella's Closet program, Paradise resident Mary Ellen Reed is somewhat of a fairy godmother on the Ridge.
Now, 46 years later, Reed has found her fairy goddaughter - who happens to be her real daughter given up at birth for adoption. The first Reed heard from her daughter, April Johnsted, was on Dec. 14 2009.

Reed said she was watching the TV show "Find My Family" and decided to try to locate her long, lost daughter. The story begins when Reed, then living in Hayward, was 17 years-old and engaged.

"I broke off the engagement and then found out I was pregnant," she said. Her fiancé wanted to get married, but Reed was against it. "I knew the marriage wouldn't last. I was too young and too immature."

Reed, 64, said there weren't a lot of options for young pregnant girls in those days. Girls would get an illegal abortion, go to a home for unwed mothers or get married, she said.

"Keeping children in those days was out of the question," she said.

Not wanting to get an abortion or get married, Reed opted for a home for unwed mothers, which was run by the Salvation Army. Reed did not want to admit she was pregnant and was five months along when she entered Booth Memorial Hospital. She became one of about 100 residents at the hospital.

She had turned 18 by then and was considered to be one of the older residents. Residents would do chores and play games to pass the time. And the girls were issued wedding rings for when they were out in public, Reed said. Through the hospital, Reed was put in contact with Children's Home Society, which agreed to find a home for her as yet unnamed newborn.
Reed was able to see her baby girl once after giving birth.

"I just thought, 'Have a wonderful life, honey,'" she said. And that was it. Reed's daughter was gone.

"She was my one and only child and I never stopped loving her," Reed said, adding that she continued looking for her over the years.

Just a couple of years after the adoption, she said she called the Children's Home Society to find information on her daughter, but "they wouldn't tell me anything." And so the years wore on. Reed kept up the search, but was getting nowhere. With the advent of the Internet, Reed entered her information into registries with hopes of contacting her daughter. Still, nothing. After watching the "Find My Family" TV show, Reed was inspired to try again.

This time she was contacted by a woman named Lori Ewart-Sanders who said she found Reed's daughter and had contact information. Reed teared up. She was apprehensive.

"I was afraid to call her," Reed said. "I didn't want to intrude on her life, especially being the person who gave her up."

She asked Ewart-Sanders to call her daughter for her. Johnsten was baking Christmas cookies with her oldest daughter when she got the call from Ewart-Sanders. In an e-mail to Reed, Johnsted said she was in shock after receiving the call. Ironically, she said she just watched about five hours of "The Locator," a TV show that reunites people.

Reed found out Johnsted was adopted by an Armenian couple and was named April Kojoian. Her father was Gabriel Kojoian, a professor at Berkley and a physicist who also worked with Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Unfortunately, her mother died when she was only 3 years-old.

"She never had a mother," Reed said.

April married and adopted the name April Johnsted. She was living in Eau 'Claire, Wis. Reed and Johnsted began trading e-mails, everything from personal information to silly jokes. Finally, on June 28, 2010 - Johnsted's birthday - Reed and Johnsted were reunited when Johnsted and her husband rode out to Paradise on their Goldwing motorcycle.

As an added bonus, Reed tracked down Johnsted's natural father who moved to Chico in the early '70s to work for Enloe Medical Center. Reed did not want to give out his name without his permission.

"He was so happy," she said.

Reed and Johnsted have fostered a tight bond and Reed will be traveling to be with her daughter during the holidays. The experience has been nothing but positive for Reed. "There is no more shame, no more guilt," she said. She enjoys telling her story and has seen positive results in other peoples' lives because of it. Reed told her story to a local woman who was inspired to find her own daughter. Again, Reed did not have permission to use the woman's name. But the good news is the woman's daughter was found two days ago.

"Telling my story creates miracles," she said. "There's a reason I have to tell this story."

As for Ewart-Sanders, Reed is eternally grateful.

"She charges nothing," Reed said. "She does this because she is a fairy godmother."


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