By STEPHANIE FARR, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Shelly Ward-Moore was going via her e mail on June 16 when she acquired to The Inquirer’s morning e-newsletter. The topic line that day was, “Can you assist her discover her organic dad and mom?”
Believing the road referred to an occasion that occurred this 12 months, Ward-Moore tried to delete the e-mail, however for some purpose, she couldn’t.
“I assumed my laptop was hacked,” she mentioned. “It was virtually like, ‘You’re not going to delete this till you learn it,’ so I mentioned, ‘Maybe I simply must learn this anyway.’ ”
The featured story within the e-newsletter that day was about Cheryl Edwards, a lady who was present in a pillowcase as a new child in a Philadelphia rowhouse. The headline learn: “Abandoned at start in West Philly in 1967, she nonetheless seeks solutions.”
“As quickly as I noticed the headline I used to be like, ‘I do know this story!’ And as quickly as I noticed my grandfather’s title I screamed,” Ward-Moore, 65, of West Oak Lane, mentioned. “I used to be the one one house and I ran up the steps and down the steps and I used to be screaming ‘OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! This is the infant!’ ”
Within 24 hours of Edwards’ story operating on-line, Ward-Moore, her sister, Geraldine Ward, 62, and a number of other members of their prolonged household contacted The Inquirer to say they not solely knew Edwards’ story, however they believed they have been her organic family.
“I’ll inform her every thing she desires to know. I’ll 100% be keen to do a DNA check,” Ward-Moore mentioned the day after the story ran. “Even if we’re not associated, I really feel related to her. I’ve been via days since yesterday.”
On Aug. 13 — at some point earlier than Edwards’ 54th birthday — DNA check outcomes proved what Ward-Moore believed all alongside: Edwards is her first cousin. A number of weeks later, DNA testing additionally confirmed Edwards has a half-brother.
“Since the age of 9 up till the age of 53 I had no thought about my previous. All of these years of questioning and never 24 hours after the story goes out, we get a solution. I’m nonetheless blown away by it,” Edwards mentioned. “For folks to learn the story in its entirety and make speedy connections and act on it, it needed to be God-ordained. I can’t clarify it every other manner.”
On Oct. 2, Edwards gathered with members of her newfound household at 3616 Haverford Ave., the West Philly website the place she was deserted as a new child. Only a vacant lot stays the place the rowhouse she was present in as soon as stood, however the data of what occurred to her there at her start and what introduced her again for the primary time all these years later moved her to tears.
“It’s completely superb, overwhelming,” Edwards mentioned. “It’s only a blessing. It actually is a blessing.”
For two hours, these gathered at the location hugged and cried and prayed collectively, as if to rechristen the area and reclaim Edwards into their household.
“I’m sorry the way it needed to be, however we’re going to make it higher for her as a result of we’re going to face by her it doesn’t matter what and provides her all of the help and love she wants,” mentioned Geraldine Ward, Edwards’ first cousin. “And she will be able to at all times know that she has a household to depend on if she wants something.”
The second was a stark distinction of Edwards’ lifelong best worry — that if she ever did discover her organic household, they may reject her over again.
Edwards was a new child, her umbilical wire lower however nonetheless connected, when she was positioned inside a pillowcase and hidden beneath a dresser in a vacant room of an in any other case occupied rowhouse on Aug. 14, 1967.
According to experiences from The Inquirer and Philadelphia Tribune at the time, James Drain, a youngster who lived in the home, heard Edwards’ cries — which he believed to be the clucks of a rooster — and ran to get his mom, Hattie. She too believed the sounds have been from a rooster and when she discovered the transferring pillowcase beneath the dresser, she went to get a 3rd resident of the constructing, George Ikard.
Ikard, 61, pulled the pillowcase and its writhing contents from beneath the dresser and put it within the trash behind the home.
He by no means appeared inside. He was too afraid, he instructed a reporter at the time.
But Margaret Rogers, a 50-year-old neighborhood resident who noticed the scene unfold, was not. She pulled the pillowcase from the trash and found Edwards inside. Rogers took the new child into the home and heated up milk for her as Hattie Drain known as the police.
Edwards — who weighed 5 kilos, 7 ounces, and was estimated to be between 12 and 24 hours outdated — was taken to Philadelphia General Hospital, the place a nurse who cared for her named her Cheryl. After three months there, with no leads as to the id of her dad and mom, Edwards was positioned in foster care with a loving Overbrook couple, the late Ernest Lee Sr. and Susan Edwards. She believed they have been her start dad and mom till she was 9, after they instructed her she’d been deserted as a child they usually needed to formally undertake her.
The three-paragraph memo Edwards’ dad and mom got after they took her into their care supplied few particulars about her previous. In 2019, Edwards reached out to The Inquirer to see if the paper had written a narrative in regards to the day she was found. It was the primary time she learn the names of Drain, Ikard, and Rogers and realized the tough particulars of her first day.
Over the years, Edwards, who moved to College Park, Md., in 2017, considered taking a DNA check to seek out her start household, however feared if she was matched with family, they’d solely reject her once more.
After dropping a number of mates to COVID-19 and going via grief counseling this 12 months, Edwards reached again out to The Inquirer to share her story. She did it to hunt closure. She did it to let others who’ve been deserted know they don’t seem to be alone. And she did with the smallest of hopes that any person would possibly acknowledge part of their very own story in hers.
“Honestly, I didn’t suppose that anybody would reply,” she mentioned. “I used to be holding out hope that somebody knew one thing, I simply didn’t know who.”
‘Nobody left bread crumbs’
The first emails in response to Edwards’ story have been from strangers who needed to inform her they admired her braveness, armchair genealogists who supplied their assist, and fellow adoptees who supplied their help.
“It was so overwhelming as a result of everyone goes via one thing, so for folks simply to place all of that apart, to learn that story and to reply the best way they did, it was a reminder that there are folks on the market who do care, they usually don’t need to know you to care,” Edwards mentioned.
As these messages have been coming in through the day, Ward-Moore was calling her family to inform them to learn Edwards’ story. At 10:22 p.m., she despatched her personal e mail to The Inquirer.
“I’m the granddaughter of Mr. George Ikard. OH MY GOD … At the time of the incident I used to be 12 years outdated, so I keep in mind the incident prefer it was yesterday,” she wrote, partly. “We at all times puzzled what occurred to the infant from August 1967. I’ve a wealth of data to provide to you for Cheryl Edwards.”
Edwards, Ward-Moore wrote, was “the spitting picture” of considered one of her aunts.
Ward-Moore’s grandfather, Ikard, had 12 youngsters and labored as a farmer. His spouse died younger and at the time Edwards was discovered, he was renting a room at 3616 Haverford Ave. The day after Edwards was found, Ward-Moore recollects her grandfather coming to her mother’s home with police and calling down her 19-year-old aunt, who stayed between their home and Ikard’s.
“He mentioned, ‘Get down right here … you left that child!’ I discovered my grandfather thought it was his daughter who did it,” Ward-Moore mentioned. “In all of the years of my life, it was at all times rumored within the household that she had the infant.”
Cops took her in for questioning however she was later launched with out expenses, Ward-Moore mentioned. Within days of the incident, relations mentioned she moved down South, the place she stayed for years earlier than returning to Philadelphia. She finally married, had one son, and later, acquired divorced.
Today, that lady remains to be alive and dwelling in a nursing house down South, in accordance with relations, however about 12 years in the past, she suffered a medical situation that left her unable to talk. The Inquirer is withholding her title as a result of she’s unable to speak or reply questions, however DNA testing has confirmed her son is Edwards’ half-brother.
While some family members believed the infant from 1967 died, others, together with Ward-Moore’s late mom, would typically insinuate she would possibly nonetheless be alive. Ward-Moore usually considered looking out on-line to see if she may discover her, however with out a title or any clue as to who adopted her, she had little to go on.
“When I’d hear tales about folks leaving their infants, I at all times thought again to that child and puzzled if somebody is on the market,” Ward-Moore mentioned. “Nobody left bread crumbs. This story was her solely manner of reaching out. If she wasn’t courageous sufficient to place it within the paper she would have by no means recognized. I reward her and I’m simply happy with her.”
As The Inquirer relayed the main points supplied by Ward-Moore and her family to Edwards, she was in shock.
“It hasn’t even been 24 hours. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. This is unbelievable! Just the straightforward undeniable fact that there was a connection to somebody who was there, I assumed we wouldn’t discover anyone,” she mentioned. “If you may see the look on my face, it’s like I’m dreaming.”
Edwards was given the names and numbers of Ward-Moore, her sister, Geraldine Ward, and considered one of their aunts who spoke with The Inquirer, however requested to not be recognized or quoted. Edwards was instructed she was beneath no obligation to contact them.
She known as all three earlier than the week was over. They talked for hours. They known as her cousin. They known as her niece. They known as her household.
“The manner they embraced me was unbelievable,” Edwards mentioned. “I used to be a stranger to them, and now I’m household.”
The following Monday, Edwards’ story additionally ran in The Inquirer’s sister publication, the Daily News, the place it was learn by another person with a connection to her story.
From the start, one of many folks Edwards needed to satisfy most was James Drain, the teenager boy who first heard her cries and went to get assist. She credit him and Rogers with saving her life.
But via the course of reporting her first story, The Inquirer found Drain died in 1997. Edwards was heartbroken by the news.
Drain’s daughter, LaKeisha Heller, had by no means heard the story of how her father as soon as discovered an deserted child at her grandmother’s home. As she learn Edwards story within the Daily News, the day after a very powerful Father’s Day for her this 12 months, she broke down crying. Then, she reached out to attach with Edwards too.
“I’m simply shocked that my dad was part of one thing as a child that I didn’t learn about and due to him she’s right here,” Heller, 45, of West Philly, mentioned. “I’m so grateful to listen to that.”
Edwards was, once more, overwhelmed.
“I’m actually gasping for air! This is greater than I may have imagined! Unbelievable!” she mentioned, as she burst into tears. “I’m not going to have any eyeballs left. When folks say they cry their eyeballs out I’m beginning to suppose that’s an precise factor. I’m simply so shocked!”
The first time Heller and Edwards related on the phone they cried collectively for 45 minutes, then talked for hours.
“It was like speaking to him,” Edwards mentioned. “Me and LaKeisha, she goes to be my sister for all times.”
‘This is absolutely occurring’
Over the next weeks, Edwards started having common phone conversations with Ward-Moore, her sister, Geraldine Ward, and their aunt.
On July 10, Geraldine Ward, who lives in Columbia, Md., simply 20 minutes away from Edwards, held a household barbecue at her house so Edwards may meet the household in individual, they usually may meet her.
Edwards was so nervous she known as Heller for recommendation.
“I used to be pleased for her however she was actually scared to go meet them,” Heller mentioned. “I instructed her simply go forward and don’t be scared, and if it will get an excessive amount of to deal with, bounce your booty out of there.”
The first individual to greet Edwards with an enormous hug when she arrived was the person who would finally show to be her half-brother. The two discuss or textual content every single day now, and relations mentioned he’s thrilled to have a sibling after being an solely youngster. He didn’t return a number of requests to be interviewed for this story and didn’t seem at the gathering at the location this month.
Back at the household barbecue in July, Edwards mentioned she felt warmly welcomed however nonetheless discovered herself so nervous that the water in her glass virtually spilled out as a result of her fingers have been shaking a lot. Eventually, she was in a position to compose herself and the household offered her with items, together with balloons and a desk lamp.
“We simply need to love on her and welcome her and present her that we’re not going to surrender and throw her away. I want we may flip again the clock the place this could have by no means went that manner,” Geraldine Ward mentioned. “I’m simply glad she lived to inform her story. God stored her right here for a purpose. It was to inform her story. That’s why it’s popping out now.”
Angelle Richardson, a household therapist and assistant professor of group and trauma counseling at Thomas Jefferson University who focuses on adoption and was adopted herself, mentioned the nice and cozy and loving reception Edwards has obtained from her start household is “great.”
“There’s this narrative that adoptees inform themselves round why was I given away or deserted, so when the start household is so welcoming, it actually helps counteract no matter that narrative is,” Richardson mentioned. “It counteracts all these issues for 53 years that she could have been telling herself about what the explanations have been why she couldn’t be with them.”
A month later, when DNA exams outcomes confirmed Edwards’ relationship to the household, “It was like a sigh of reduction,” she mentioned.
“I simply began screaming ‘Oh my God!’ I texted Shelly straight away. I mentioned ‘COUSIN’ with ten exclamation factors,” Edwards mentioned. “Then, it hit me. This is absolutely occurring. And I used to be dumbfounded.”
Ward-Moore mentioned she hasn’t been this enthusiastic about something since she was a bit child operating downstairs to the tree on Christmas morning.
“I instantly known as everyone and I mentioned ‘DNA is again! DNA is again! It’s official,’” she mentioned. “It simply seems like this was meant to occur. It’s superb to me. It’s a tremendous time in my life. And I’m excited every single day every time I take into consideration Cheryl.”
As for Edwards, the void of vacancy and loss she felt when this 12 months began that compelled her to enter grief remedy is shortly being replenished with love.
“All of that is so large, so large. I’ve household far and wide. I’ll by no means be lonely ever once more in my life,” she mentioned. “I simply really feel like I can tackle the world now as a result of there are an entire lot of different folks on the market to like me and I can love on them.”
While Edwards has obtained extra solutions this 12 months than she ever hoped for, many questions nonetheless stay. Nobody within the household is aware of why she was deserted at start, or who her organic father could also be.
“I by no means even considered him, not in a adverse manner, I simply by no means mentioned ‘OK, now that I discovered who the mom is now let me discover who the daddy is,’ ” Edwards mentioned. “Nobody within the household is aware of.”
Richardson mentioned Edwards’ response isn’t uncommon, particularly for feminine adoptees.
“Most adoptees seek for moms somewhat than fathers. When you concentrate on life occasions, like giving start, organic moms are sort of entrance and heart,” she mentioned. “And typically the circumstances don’t lend themselves to understanding or discovering out who the organic father was.”
Despite the unknowns, Edwards mentioned she’s pleased her start mom is alive and she or he hopes she’ll have the ability to meet her at some point. She’d prefer to learn her a letter she wrote her, one her counselor really useful she write earlier than she publicly shared her story and even knew who her mom may be.
The letter begins with: “Dear organic mother,” and closes with “God bless you, till subsequent time. Your daughter, Cheryl Denise Edwards.”
“And I’d prefer to hug her, simply to say, ‘It’s OK, I’m effective. I’ve been effective this complete time. And you possibly can breathe,’ ” Edwards mentioned. “Because I can solely think about what that has been like for her over time. Although I don’t know the circumstances as to why issues occurred like they did, as a mom who had to choose, I do know it was tough and painful. It needed to be.”
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