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Sisters meet after lifetime of separation
A Hamilton woman who was adopted hired an investigator to find out about her biological family.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
HAMILTON — Claudia Richmond grew up knowing she was adopted, but knowing nothing about her biological parents.
The Hamilton resident said the mystery of her roots has always bugged her and she decided to do something about it by hiring a private investigation firm in January 2007.
One year later, the investigation led to a sister named Loretta Martin, of Hollywood, Fla. Martin, who is five years older than Richmond, said she had no idea that her mother, Roberta Powell, ever lived in Hamilton.
On Wednesday, Nov. 12, the sisters met for the first time in front of Richmond's Chamberlain Drive home.
After a tearful embrace, Richmond struggled to find the words to describe what she was feeling: "Unreal. Amazing. Wonderful."
"It's kind of scary," said Martin, 55. "My mom's been dead for so long, then to see someone who looks so much like her ..."
For the past several months, the sisters had been corresponding through e-mail and on the phone.
"At first I thought it was a hoax," Martin said of the call she received from the private investigator.
But there are still many mysteries about the ties that bind the two women. Neither knows the identity of their father; and they also don't know much about their mother's life in Hamilton.
But this time, Richmond won't be alone as she tries to unravel her past.
A woman says her search for family was 'like a jigsaw puzzle'
Claudia Richmond watched a car pull up to her house Wednesday morning, Nov. 12.
Gray clouds overhead couldn't dampen the occasion, as Richmond, 50, came face-to-face for the first time with one of her biological relatives — her older sister, Loretta Martin.
"(Richmond) looks so much like my mother," said Martin, who traveled up from Hollywood, Fla., for the visit.
Richmond, who was raised as an only child in Fairfield Twp. by her adoptive parents, found Martin through a private investigation firm she hired to find the answers to questions she's had all her life.
"It's like a jigsaw puzzle," Richmond said, "you find a piece here, a piece there. I always liked a good mystery."
Through county medical records, Richmond learned that she was given up for adoption by her mother, Roberta Powell, five days after she was born in a maternity hospital called Maple Knolls in Springfield Twp., Hamilton County. The facility closed years ago and Powell died in 1995, but the records show that her mother listed her address as a home in the 400 block of Eighth Street in Hamilton.
"What always intrigued me was (that the records showed) there was one live birth before me," Richmond said.
Martin, a Kentucky native who grew up knowing her mother but was raised more by her grandfather in Indiana, said she had heard a rumor in the family that her mom had given up a baby for adoption.
Richmond's birth records have details about her mother's stay in the hospital — how she slept, the apple juice she drank, the unknown visitor who came to see her. Martin said her mother wasn't an easy person to get along with.
Though she forgave her mother for what she described as a rough upbringing, she couldn't help but feel angry as she read the description of her sister's birth.
"I don't know how you can do that and just walk away," said Martin, who was 5 when her sister was born. "I know (my mother) never thought we would ever see each other. She thought she would go to her grave with it."
The sisters' lives have paralleled in some respects. Loretta moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1969 while her first husband was stationed at a military base. Claudia lived in the same town for a short while in 2003. The sisters, who are both animal lovers and like to read, also lived in neighboring states out west at the same time.
The sisters have one other thing in common — neither one knows who their father was.
The sisters planned to drive to Indiana together and visit with relatives whom Richmond has never met. Richmond said she hopes someone reading this story might have known her mom. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.