Adoptee finds more people to love

Gwen Chamberlain
Rick Simpson visited with Marietta Hollister at Dundee School after learning they are siblings.

DUNDEE — “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them,” is a quote attributed to Desmond Tutu, and it just might be one of Marietta Hollister’s favorites, now that she has connected with her brother, Rick Simpson, and other members of her birth family.

That these two are related doesn’t seem a stretch when you look at the photo of them snapped recently by one of Marietta’s co-workers at Dundee Central School, where Rick spent the last seven years as School Resource Officer.

But they both describe the recent discovery of their relationship as amazing. Marietta, a seventh and eighth grade teacher at Dundee Jr. Sr. High School grew up near Dresden, and she says she always knew she was adopted. “My family used to read me books about being adopted when I was little,” she says.

Over the past 10 years, she has been searching for her birth mother, encouraged by her mother, Margaret Calder, who even bought her a DNA test two years ago on Mother’s Day. Marietta discovered a second cousin based on that test. But it wasn’t until this year that she was able to get a copy of her birth certificate, thanks to a new state law that went into affect Jan. 15.

Within a few minutes of opening the envelope with the birth certificate Feb. 12, she noted the name, Diana Lee Simpson with a connection to Dresden. A quick internet search didn’t provide any answers, but she knew Rick Simpson had grown up in the Dresden area, so she reached out to him.

Rick was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on vacation when he received Marietta’s text message asking if there was anyone by that name in his family. Not knowing why she was asking, he simply replied, “That would be my mother.”

“I never expected the answer I got!” Rick exclaims about Marietta’s next message that Diana was her mother too.

That simple text exchange answered questions Rick and his older brother Bill had pondered for a few years too. “We had found a bible my mom had, and we found two names that didn’t have last names. One was Roberta Michelle. I knew there was someone out there.”

Marietta writes in an email, “The most amazing part is that after having my birth certificate for about 10-15 minutes, I had already tracked down my family! It makes me sad that there have been so many years wasted because of NYS laws, but I think Rick and I are both planning on making up for lost time, in some regards. It is nice that we already have so much familiarity with each other, so it is not awkward, and I feel very comfortable asking questions as they come up. I am not sure what made me message him that night hoping that there would be someone in his family that knew her, but I am so glad that I did. I was certainly not expecting him to say that it was his mother.”

Sadly, their mother passed away about 20 years ago, so Marietta never had a chance to meet her, but that was something she had prepared for. Her adoptive father, Bob Calder, had also passed away about 20 years ago.

The sibling’s proximity over the past 46 years is uncanny. The two still wonder at how often their lives’ paths have crossed.

When Marietta taught at Penn Yan Middle School, one of her students was Rick’s daughter, Amber. Rick graduated from Penn Yan Academy with Marietta’s brother, Chad. A retired Yates County Deputy, Rick knew Marietta’s mother Margaret Calder, now retired from her long time post as secretary to former Yates County Judge Patrick Falvey. Their sons worked together for the village of Penn Yan over the summer, and of course, their paths crossed regularly at the Dundee school.

When Rick returned to Penn Yan from his Florida vacation, one of the first things he did was visit his younger sister at Dundee School. In a facebook post, Marietta points out the family resemblance, something neither of them noted before. “Why would we?” asks Rick. But when Rick brought family photos to a visit at Marietta’s house last week, they all quickly saw how much she resembles her mother.

With new growth on both family trees — Rick is tickled that he has a new niece and three new nephews — the siblings are working on ways to build on relationships. Marietta says, “My kids are really excited to have cousins in Penn Yan, and are looking forward to get to know Rick and Bill and family. I think they have the same attitude that I do, that it is just more people for us to love.”

She explains via email: “As an adoptee you always dream about what it will be like to meet your birth family. Will you look like them? Will they be happy that you have found them? This is a huge fear, as babies in New York State were adopted under the guise of anonymity, and now this legislation exposes them. I was prepared to tread lightly to respect their privacy, but also was anxious to make connections and find out my medical history, which I have never had access to. To be so openly welcomed by Rick, and Bill (who I have messaged but have not yet met), really made me feel incredible.”

Now Rick is waiting for results from his own DNA test, wondering if there are any other surprises to come, because they still don’t know who that other name in the bible belongs to. “I didn’t have to look too hard for my sister!” he exclaims.

The New York State Department of Health accepts requests from adoptees 18-years-old and older born in New York State, outside of New York City, who want to receive their birth certificate. If the adoptee is deceased, direct line descendants, such as a child, grandchild or great-grandchild of the adoptee, may request a copy of the adoptee’s birth certificate. Also, a lawful representative of an adoptee or a lawful representative of a deceased adopted person’s direct line descendant may also apply for an original birth certificate.

Adoptees Right to Know Law