Family

A Mother and Son Finally Reunited During Thanksgiving After Being Apart for 64 Years

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“Hi, what’s going on?” 79-year-old Judy Kirkpatrick asked when her sister, Rose, called one October day in 2019. Always close, the two chatted often and easily. But today there was a hesitation in Rose’s voice.

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“I don’t know how to tell you this,” she began, then shared, “I think we found your boy.”

“Oh, my God!” Judy gasped, her heart flooding with disbelief … and overwhelming joy.

Bonded by Love

Instantly, Judy’s mind reeled back decades to October 1955, when she was barely 15 and living in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, home for unwed mothers. As much as she longed to keep her baby, she realized, I can’t do this alone. My baby deserves a good life. And with a shattered heart, she signed the adoption papers.

As years passed, Judy moved to Great Falls, Montana, married, and raised four other children — Mike, Awnie, Mark, and Michelle. Yet there was always a hole in her heart. And as her kids grew older and learned they had a brother out there somewhere, they too felt a sense of loss and yearned to know him.

Judy tried several times to find her son. But the records were sealed, and there was no internet to search back then. And besides, what if she did find him? Would he want to know her? Please, just let him be healthy and happy, she prayed.

Barry Wilmoth had indeed enjoyed a great life, growing up on a farm in Oklahoma with two loving parents. He’d always felt chosen, like in the book his mom read to him every night when he was little. “If you ever want to find your birth mom, I can help pay for the search,” his mom offered more than once.

“No, thanks,” Barry always replied. “I’m sure she made the right choice at the time, and I really lucked out, getting you and Dad for parents.”

Barry was curious about his heritage, though, and in 2017, sent a DNA sample to 23andMe. British, Irish and Scandinavian, the results came back, satisfying him. Until two years later, when Barry received a fateful email. Judy’s niece, Carla, was researching her genealogy and did a DNA test. Barry was listed as a first cousin. Not recognizing the name, she messaged him.

All I can tell you is that I was adopted, he wrote back. I was born in Tulsa in 1955.

Her curiosity piqued, Carla shared the exchange with her aunt Rose, who instantly knew: He’s Judy’s baby boy.

“Let’s take things slowly,” Rose advised her sister when she called with the news. “This is going to be traumatic for both of you.”

But Judy’s daughter Michelle felt her mom had waited long enough. She tracked down Barry on Facebook and called him. “I think I’m your sister,” she said. Soon, they were both in tears. As he took down Judy’s phone number, Barry felt an unexpected stirring in his heart.

Much to Be Thankful for

That evening, Judy answered her phone. “I’m Barry. It looks like you’re my mom,” her now-grown baby boy said.

“Barry,” Judy repeated the name she’d never known. “Tell me everything.”

Barry told Judy about his life, and about his loving mom and dad, who were now both deceased. “Thanksgiving is coming, I’d love to come meet you,” he suggested.

“That would be wonderful,” Judy choked, gratitude and joy filling her heart.

“There he is!” Judy and her kids shouted early Thanksgiving morning at the airport when they spotted Barry running down the ramp like a kid — into Judy’s waiting arms.

At dinner, Barry asked if he could say grace. “Bless us for this food, and for the opportunity to finally gather as a family and get to know each other.”

Barry with Judy
Barry and Judy, reunitedCourtesy of Judy Kirkpatrick and Barry Wilmoth

The weekend flew by, but Barry promised he would return. His next visit, he brought along his son, Parker. They enjoyed virtual visits during the pandemic, but look forward to many more family dinners in the years to come.

“I only wish my folks were here. They would love this,” Barry says.

And Judy would have loved the opportunity to thank them for taking such good care of her baby boy. “My heart feels full and settled,” says Judy, who is now 81. “My questions have all been answered. I don’t have to wonder or worry anymore.”

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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