Suzi’s search

Susies Search 1

Suzi Wood spent the first 62 years of her life as an only child before learning she is one of seven siblings.

Wood had looked for her biological mother for four decades before an email appeared that blew her out of the water. She and husband Chuck had just returned from an evening out. Dragging from a cold that was coming on, the Pendleton woman undressed and snuggled under warm covers.

Just as she drifted off, Chuck stepped into the bedroom and snapped on the light. A fascinating e-mail had just landed in their inbox, he said, and she needed to get up and look at it.

“Just tell me what it says,” she murmured from under the covers.

“No,” he insisted. “You really need to get up and read this.”

Wood instantly forgot her misery as she became engrossed in the message sent by a woman named Melody Massey.

“My mother gave birth to a girl on June 10, 1946… named Susan Kay,” Massey wrote, and Wood was likely her half sister.

Wood, born on that date and called Susan Kay by her adoptive parents, immediately grabbed a stack of papers she had gathered during her 40-year search for her birth parents and called the phone number at the bottom of the     e-mail. Over the next couple of hours, Wood learned she had five half-siblings and another who had died shortly after birth. Their mother had died in 1986 of diabetes complications.

In the months following, Wood has met Massey, another half-sister and her half-brother and gone through DNA testing. Aware of her mother’s medical history, she got tested for diabetes. Results came back positive though Wood had never noticed symptoms.

Wood’s yearning to find her birth mother hit hard in college when her English teacher assigned students to write about their family histories. Later, after getting married and having her first child, Wood unexpectedly discovered information about her birth mother while digging deep into a box of old family photos. Near the bottom, she came across special feeding instructions for the baby girl of Eleanor Roberts from Santa Clara County Hospital.

Wood’s heart leaped. She now knew her mother’s name — or so she thought. She immediately contacted International Soundex Reunion Registry, but the name Eleanor Roberts got zero hits. Another company, Intelius, supplied a list of women named Eleanor Roberts, their addresses and their birth dates. She sent postcards to dozens of women on the list who seemed about the right age, explaining her quest. The only woman to return her card said she wasn’t Wood’s birth mother.

Wood found herself at a dead end and frustrated. But in California, Massey, a genealogist, was just setting out on her own adventure. Though she had heard about two older half-sisters all her life, her mother said the girls, Susan and Donna, had died. After her mother’s death, she learned from her grandmother that the girls had actually been put up for adoption.

In Susan’s case, her mom had gone through a private adoption so her Navy husband, stationed in Alaska, wouldn’t find out she’d been unfaithful. He did anyway and a divorce soon followed. The other, Donna, had spent four years in foster care before being adopted.

Armed with Susan’s birth date and name of hospital, Massey walked into the local courthouse and asked for records. Microfilm confirmed the birth. Census records showed that Wood’s birth name was Susan Kay Baker, not Roberts as Wood had believed, and her mother’s name at the time was not Roberts either. The discovery of a marriage certificate led Massey to the current last name of Wood. When Massey registered with Soundex, she hit the jackpot, finding her half-sister.

In recent months, Wood has met half-siblings Massey, Donna McCarty and Jerry Connor and  marveled at the similar mannerisms and physical characteristics between the three. During her first visit with McCarty at her California home, the two meshed instantly.

“We were like this,” Wood said, holding two fingers together. “We hit it off immediately.”

The women decided to find out if they were full or half-sisters. They made an appointment for 24-hour DNA testing at a Vallejo clinic.

“We were sitting in the waiting room with all these nervous guys and pregnant women,” Wood said.

Inside the patient room, the technician swabbed both their cheeks as the women laughed and chatted. The test confirmed they share one parent, but not two.

Wood’s introduction to her half-brother began with a giant bear hug outside the buffet at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino. The next night at dinner at the Wood house, Connor said, “Sis, would you pass the salad?”

The simple words sparked emotion.

“It sent a chill through my spine to know that he had accepted me enough to call me sis,” she said. “I had always wanted a brother.”

Jerry and his wife divide their time between homes in Pasco and Kona, Hawaii, and have invited the Woods to join them on the island sometime soon.

Wood isn’t quite done searching. In hopes of finding her father, she petitioned the court to unseal her birth certificate. She is still waiting for the judge’s decision.

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