Thursday, January 21, 2010

At Last I Know Who I Really Am - Part II

Synposis of Part I - Shannon Kincaid Frazier was on a quest to find her birth mom and birth name. This article was originally printed in Family Circle in 1987. Shannon is a Hope Baby and graciously shares her story again with us.

It was another conversation with her mom - and again the subject was babies - that gave her the first sharp nudge in the ribs.

"I was coming up on 22, married now, and trying to get pregnant," Shannon says. "I asked my mom about a good obstetrician. She called an old friend, who recommended Dr. Ed Harrison. He and my dad had been classmates at medical school, and in the fall of 1959 they'd both begun their internships - Ed at Baylor University Medical Center, my dad at Parkland.

"Anyway, this friend told my mom - in an offhand kind of way - that Ed thought he delivered me. It was the first my mom had heard of it. So I made an appointment to see Dr. Harrison."

In fact, Dr. Harris had delivered her. His review of admission records confirmed it. But in spite of Shannon's pleading, he couldn't bring himself to tell her anything else.

Finally, she enlisted the help of her dad, Dr. Billy Paul Kincaid, in trying to persuade Dr. Harrision to reveal more. In November of 1985 Dr. Bill Paul passed along the only scrap of information he had been able to ferret out: "Ed says her family was from Greenville."

As Shannon says now, with a sigh, "But my dad misunderstood him. I went for months thinking Greenville. I even looked through Greenville High School annuals to see if I could find anybody I resembled. Nothing. It was a dead end.

Then in May 1986, Shannon learned that Hope Cottage had set up a program to help adopted children find their birth parents. No names, but just enough information to put her on the follow the dots trail that began with the number on her birth certificate and took her to the state archive in Austin - to Donna Gayle Parrish.

"Ordinarily, I would have been listed on my birth certificate as 'infant of' which is how most illegitimate children were registered," Shannon explains. "Then I would have known her name right away. But because she thought enough of me to give me a name, she made my search much more difficult."

All Shannon knew was that her mother was a native Texan and had turned shortly 17 shortly before Shannon was born. And so she photocopied a list of all the Parrish girl children registered in the year of her birth - there were 75 or so - winnowed them down to the 10 born between August and October and arranged them in alphabetical order: from Agnes Lee to Myrna Loy.

She called medical records at Baylor with a made-up story about needing to confirm the place of her birth. On her birthdate. To a woman named Parrish. 'Well, which Parrish?' the clerk asked. 'There's about a hundred thousand of 'em here.' "Agnes Lee?" she ventured. "No," the clerk answered. "How about Betty Jane?" "Hold on." "He slammed the phone down and walked away." Shannon says. "I thought he'd probably figured out that I didn't know my mother's name. But about five minutes later he came back on the line. 'What was that birthdate again?' I repeated it. 'Yep, he said, Betty Jane Parrish had a baby girl on her birthdate." Bingo - on her second try!

From that moment it was "as if I was shoved through doors," Shannon says. She placed a call to the county clerk in the county of her birth, who obliged with the names and Social Security numbers of Betty Jane's parents. And the county phone directory had a listing for a Parrish in Gatesville. Not Greenville, as her dad had understood Dr. Harrision to say -but- Gatesville. Now Shannon tried another subterfuge. She asked a friend to cook up a story and trace Betty Parrish for her-something about a reunion of Betty's old high school chums to give a plausible, nonthreatening reason for making inquiries about Betty.

"I was standing by the phone when she called to tell me what'd she'd learned." The friend had secured her birth mother's married name and phone number. She lived not 10 minutes from Shannon. But it was agreed that the friend would call first to soften the shock and make it easier for Betty to back away if she wanted to. They talked for a long time. Then it was Shannon's turn. "I said, 'Betty, this is Shannon,' and she said, 'Hi honey.' Her voice cracked just a bit. I loved it. I thought, This is my mother-finally. I asked when I could come by to see her and she said,'Well, I've made your wait for years, haven't I? I can't ask you to wait any longer.'"

Betty was not altogether unprepared for the moment "Shannon came storming into my life." "I knew she would find me one day," Betty says with a smail. "I would have had to know about my mother, and if my daughter had gotten any curiosity from me, I figured it ws only a matter of time. I hadn't seen her since Hope Cottage - it was against the rules, but a counselor had let me hold her for maybe 30 minutes. Yet when I opened the door to her that day, I knew I wasn't looking at a stranger."

Part III coming next week

Thursday, January 14, 2010

At Last I Know Who I Really Am

We have a saying in our family "Always stay sober, you never know who you are going to run into". Social networking intrigues me and it is proving to be a bonanza for getting reconnected with Hope Babies. Hope Cottage has a Facebook page - some people have found us just by searching Facebook with the words "Hope Cottage".

A friend of mine who is a teacher at a local private school joined the Hope Cottage Facebook page. Within a few minutes of his joining, one of his former students posted that his mother was adopted from Hope Cottage. The student was so excited to find the Facebook group that he immediately contacted his mother, told her about it and posted a scan of her adoption story on the group page. His mother has given us permission to blog about her story, so here it is. Originally written by John E. Frook and published in Family Circle in 1987, the story of Shannon Kincaid Frazier, one of our own!

Number 182,164. That's all she has to go on: a number hidden in one of the ten dictionary-fat books in which every child born in the state of Texas in 1959 was logged in by surname, alphabetically, and assigned a birth-certificate number. From Aalbers to Zworykin - 247,248 names and numbers.

But Shannon Kincaid Frazier has no name with which to begin her search. She will have to go at it the hard way - find 182,164 in one of the books and then backtrack across the page to the name attached to it.

Shannon and her sister-in-law, Liz Frazier, had been at it for about three hours. They had split the year into A-K and L-Z, and by now each of the young women was into her second volume.

Suddenly Liz whispered, "182,164!" "Uh-huh," Shannon replied. Parrish!" Liz exclaimed. "Donna Gayle Parrish!" Shannon, absorbed in her search, still didn't respond.

As Liz said later, "It was a name that meant nothing to me, but my heart was pounding to beat the band. When Shannon finally looked up, all I could do was point. She came around to my side of the table. I had my finger pressed down hard so the name couldn't get away. She didn't say anything for a couple of minutes. Then she let out a scream: "Donna Gayle Parrish!"

At age 25 Shannon Kincaid Frazier, the adopted daughter of Patsy and Dr. Billy Paul Kincaid, had found out who she was.

She had wondered about this - about who she really was - since a summer morning when she was 10. She remembers the exact moment - she was sitting in her mom's bedroom and the conversation turned to babies. "When I have a baby, will I die?" she had asked. She knew she was adopted and assumed her birth mother was dead. Why else would a woman give up her baby?

Shannon, my mom said, your mother isn't dead. I have something I think you'd like to see." And she took down the strongbox and handed me a letter.

It was a one-page genealogy of "Baby Girl Kinkaid (sic)" prepared by Hope Cottage, the Dallas home for unwed mothers that had placed her for adoption: Mother: curly brown hair, blue eyes, round face, 4'11", 105 pounds; smiling, pleasant, manner, generally happy, Irish descent, excellent student, two years of high school, sings, plays cornet, artistic. Father: dark blonde hair, brown eyes, 5'11", 5 years of college, good singing voice, intelligent.

"After that, I looked for them everywhere," Shannon says. "I tried to imagine faces from the features and characteristics."

Shannon has only happy memories of her childhood, of being looked after and loved in large measure. And there is nothing in her adult personality to suggest she was ever damaged psychologically. She is an accomplished painter, a country-rock vocalist, a sometime bit player with television and film credits. She considers her marriage blissful and her young son, Obie, a godsend. And if that's not enough, she is, as they say in Texas, as pretty as new paint.

Still, until the day she learned the name she was born with, she had never quite been able to shake the feeling of incompletemess, of unfinished business.

To be continued...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hope Cottage History

One of the best things about being new to an organization, especially for a history buff, is that everything is a new discovery. I was going through a stack of pictures and found this darling photo of a young girl with what we used to call a Buster Brown haircut. Maybe because I spent most of my youth with the same haircut, or for another reason, but the photo intrigued me. There was no name on the back, no date and no one here knew anything about the photo's subject. The picture stayed in my office and every now and then I would wonder about the young girl. I knew for sure if her photo was in our agency, she was probably a Hope Baby (what we call children adopted through Hope Cottage), but that was all.

In the development field, old newsletters can be a treasure trove of information about the organization, so I set myself on the task of organizing into one central file copies of old Hope Cottage newsletters. And guess what - there was the girl! It seems in 1983, as part of the the 65th Birthday Celebration of Hope Cottage, oral histories were recorded of people whose lives had been touched by Hope Cottage. (I am determined to locate those also!)

So here, in her own words, is a little about our mystery girl, Hope Watson Rohr, one of the first children adopted from Hope Cottage in 1918. And by the way, Hope Cottage is on a search to find the oldest living Hope Baby, so help spread the word!

"I was born June 16, 1918 and lived in a foundling home operated by Mrs. Ballard until I was six months old. On December 18, 1918, I was adopted by Luke and Ethel Watson."

Mrs. Rohr said her dad told her she was the only one of the 18 babies who wasn't crying when he visited the cottage. From the start, she felt she was "chosen". She was quite small when she was born and weighed only six pounds at six months. Mrs. Ballard told Hope's father that she had two white elephants on her hands - Hope and Hope Cottage - and she "hoped" both would survive and flourish.

In the early 1920's, Hope was playing with a neighbor named Rose..."One day we were quarreling over a piece of lace for our dolls, and she told me I didn't belong to my parents. I was shocked and hurt. I ran into the house to ask my mother if I was adopted and she said , 'Yes, you are adopted. Your dad and I wanted a child very much and we chose you because we wanted you. Your little friend's parents are STUCK with her.' That made my day - and you know what I said to Rose!"

Hope married Kirby C. Rohr on Valentine's Day 44 years ago (circa 1939) and she still "wouldn't trade him for anything." They have three grown children and two grandchildren, one of whom is adopted. Through legal documents, she was able to locate her only relatives, an aunt and uncle. "We went to Dallas and visited with them because the children asked so many questions about my side of the house." She learned that her birth mother, grandmother and great-grandmother had been victims of the influenza epidemic of 1918. Her relatives gave her photographs of her birth family. "There is a strong resemblance between my oldest son and my grandfather, and I look exactly like my mother and grandmother."

"I'm glad I found them because they are both gone, so there is absolutely no way or no one living who can prove anything. If it had not been for Betty Rushing, Betty Clinkinbeard, and Rose Katz of Hope Cottage, I would not have been able to prove anything in order to draw my Social Security. These lovely ladies bent over backwards trying to help me get things straightened out and they did. I will be forever grateful to them. I have referred several people to Hope Cottage."

She still firmly believes, "All adopted people are very special - we are chosen."

But that is not all to the story. It seems that Hope didn't always sport a Buster Brown Cut. The picture in my office and at the top of this article was actually the second picture I found of Hope. At left is another picture I found of Hope. Notice the long hair. It seems that Hope's mom would roll her hair every night on old stockings so that it would look pretty the next day. Her father thought that was just too much work, so one day he dressed her up in her fur collar and muff and took her to the photo shop and had this picture made. Next stop was the barber shop. The result was the Buster Brown. And then he took her home for her mother to see. Needless to say, her mother was quite shocked. I think we can assume at some point her mother got over the shock. Keep watching the blog for more Hope Baby stories - if you have one of your own, give us a call at 214.526.8721, ext. 242 or e-mail We want to hear from you!