For years, Hillary Harris had been looking for her birth family. However, her search would hit dead end after dead end. Just when she thought she’d reached the final straw, she came across an unexpected discovery that kept the search going. After many fruitless efforts, she’d find the answer to her unanswered questions right under her nose.
Her Adoption Was Never a Secret
Growing up, it was never a mystery to Hillary Harris that she was adopted at birth. As an infant in 1987, Hillary was adopted by two loving parents named Lee and Rochelle Hardy. The two were open about the issue and would answer any questions that they could. However, Hillary’s question concerning the identity of her birth parents was something they didn’t know.
Throughout her teens and early 20s, it was a wonder that gnawed away at her. Who were the two people that had brought her into this world? While her curiosity never fully died down, developments years later would reveal answers to questions she never knew she’d have.
A Family of Her Own
While an array of questions ate away at Hillary, life eventually bloomed and her need for answers became an afterthought. Following childhood, Hillary went on to graduate from college and find work. It was then that she met someone who’d alter the course of her life, a young man named Lance. The two had an instant connection and not long after their romance blossomed, he was on his knee and asking for her hand in marriage.
By the time 2011 rolled around, Hillary’s interest in finding her parents had nearly dwindled completely. She had given birth to a daughter, Stella, and her life was consumed with being a parent. However, as Stella grew, a familiar feeling started to resurface within Hillary.
Past Feelings Fully Resurfaced
As Hillary watched Stella develop from a baby to a little girl, she felt a euphoric bond that she had never experienced in her life. The feeling caused old wonders to resurface inside of her and she again found herself thinking about her birth parents. Hillary wondered if she would have had the same kind bond with them as she did with Stella.
With that, for the first time in years, Hillary resumed her long abandoned search for her origins. She started her renewed mission at Catholic Charities, the agency that had handled her adoption. The adoption agency would soon have answers for her about her biological parents, however those results would come with some heartbreaking news.
Meetings Not Going As Planned
In 2012, Dawn was informed that two people who put her up for adoption all those years ago were named Wayne Clouse and Bonnie Carl. Hillary wasted no time in finding her birth mother’s information. Although Hillary had quite a few reservations about meeting Bonnie, she called asking to meet her biological mother. Still, she was fully aware of cases in which birth parents didn’t want to take part in such reunions.
Hillary cast these worries aside as Bonnie agreed. When the day came, Hillary went to meet her birth mother, but sadly, things didn’t exactly play out the way she’d imagined. She was expecting to have a tingly feeling run through her entire body when meeting her mother. But, this wasn’t the case. According to Hillary, the meeting didn’t exactly go bad, there was just a lack of connection. Most importantly, though, her mother did confirm to Hillary that her father was indeed Wayne Clouse as stated in the documents. Sadly, meeting the man wouldn’t be an option.
Father Would Never Meet Daughter
The packet Hillary had received from Catholic Charities about her biological parents featured a small bundle of information, amid which was an obituary for her late birth father. Unfortunately for Hillary, Wayne Close passed away in 2010 at the age of 68. She had missed him by only a few years.
According to his obituary, Hillary’s bith father, Wayne, had lived a full life that included outdoor hobbies, two marriages and a military service that saw him involved in the Bay of Pigs incident in Cuba. While the obituary clipping broke Hillary’s heart and led her search to what looked like the ultimate dead end, it also shed light on a promising new detail she wasn’t even looking for.
Hillary’s Missing Relatives
While most would expect Hillary’s search to end there, Wayne Clouse’s obituary revealed something that opened up a new chapter in Hillary’s search. According to the document, Wayne was survived by two daughters from a different marriage: Dawn Johnson and Rennee Diericks. This would make them Hillary’s half sisters.
According to the obituary, both of Wayne’s other daughters hailed from Wisconsin and both had been queens of the Loyal Corn Festival. Dawn won the crown in 1983 and Rennee in 1985. Beyond that fact, it didn’t go into any more details about them. However, Hillary wasn’t about to give up. She would soon embark on the search of her life.
Taking a Closer Look At Her Family Tree
Given the years she spent looking for her birth parents, Hillary had quite the knack for researching. She started with combing through Facebook for the name Dawn Johnson. As you can imagine, the name Johnson is quite common in the United States and she wasn’t going find her half sister very easily.
There was also the possibility that Dawn could have changed her name, not had an online presence or been living abroad somewhere. However, Hillary was dedicated to finding her sister and was not intimidated by the challenge before her. Whenever she hit a dead end, she’d simply start all over again. During this time, Lance stepped up for his wife and did something unexpected.
Lance Steps Up To The Plate
While Hillary’s determination to find her half sister was pretty high, one has to keep in mind that Dawn had a ton of responsibilities outside of her genealogy search. This is where Lance stepped up. As a means of giving his wife time to search to her best ability, he’d double down as a father for Stella and help whenever he could.
With this, Hillary was able to spend long nights searching for Dawn over the Internet. She would search every surrounding city and expand. She’d even try to trace her father’s tracks and cover everywhere he had been while he was alive. The best that Hillary could hope for at that point was that Dawn was still in Wisconsin. Over time, everyone became frustrated with the situation though and Hillary was beginning to consider the hard truth.
Accepting The Inevitable
Hillary had done more than most adopted children could hope for. She tracked down her birth parents and even discovered that she had some sisters out there. However, finding them proved to be impossible. She had spent months laboring over the computer but all to no avail.
With her and her husband’s frustration hitting an all time high, Hillary decided that it was time to close this chapter of her life and move on. However, life wouldn’t let the woman move on. Unbeknownst to the Harris family, five years after Hillary initially started her search, a change would come to their neighborhood that would lead to an unbelievable turn of events.
Welcoming The New Neighbors
Hillary, Lance and Stella had already lived in Eau Claire, Wisconsin since 2005. But by the summer of 2017, the neighborhood would see a really big change. A new family moved into the house next door to the Harris family.
As the new neighbors unpacked their belongings, the Harris family went over to introduce themselves. The man’s name was Kurt Casperson. He was moving into the house with his long time girlfriend. He explained that the two of them had been looking for a home in the area for quite some time and that they finally lucked out. That’s when Kurt’s girlfriend arrived to greet the new neighbors too.
An Immediate Connection
As his girlfriend came to the door, Kurt went back to moving boxes into the house. His girlfriend went about chatting with Lance and Hillary. There was an immediate connection between the two women, as they were able to talk like they had known each other for their whole lives.
Lance and Hillary had zero doubts that their new neighbors would be great additions to the neighborhood. The two women got so wrapped up in their conversation that they forgot to properly introduce themselves. As the new neighbor said her name, Hillary immediately found herself in a state of shock. She couldn’t believe what she heard.
A Strange Coincidence?
To Hillary’s surprise, her new neighbor introduced herself as Dawn. Despite being surprised, Hillary had to tell herself that it was all just a strange coincidence. There was no way that this could be the Dawn she had been looking for. As the conversation went on, Hillary would spot another coincidence.
Kurt and Dawn had moved in from Greenwood, a location that was mentioned in her father’s obituary. Upon learning of the new neighbors’ origins, Hillary immediately locked eyes with her husband. He looked just as shocked as she was. Despite the excitement, Lance would go on to serve as a voice of reason.
What Are The Chances?
Once Hillary and Lance went back into the house, they couldn’t help but be excited over all the information their new neighbor just dropped on them. Despite the excitement he shared with his wife, Lance didn’t want to jump to conclusions. He had to remind his wife that the chance of her long lost sister moving in next to her were slim to none.
There was no question that Greenwood had its share of Dawns living in the city. While Hillary completely agreed with her husband, she still couldn’t get over the immediate connection that she felt with Dawn. If only she could somehow get this woman’s last name, she’d be able to put the endless thoughts to rest. She’d soon get the answer she was looking for via sheer luck.
A Surprise Delivery
As the days went by, the notion of Dawn being Hillary’s sister became somewhat a running joke in the Harris household. But all kidding aside, Hillary was secretly still bewildered over the connection she felt with Dawn and desperately wanted to know what her last name was. She just didn’t know how to ask such a question without coming across as weird.
Next door, Dawn and Kurt weren’t exactly settled into their new home yet. Kurt wanted to make some repairs on the home starting with roof. He ordered a batch of new roof shingles, but put the delivery under Dawn’s name, as he was often out of the house due to work. The morning the package was delivered, Hillary threw caution to the wind and couldn’t fight the urge to walk over to their porch and look at the package before her new neighbors brought it inside.
Everything’s In a Name
Getting caught would likely mean the end of the relationship between her and Dawn, but it seemed worth it to Hillary. When she looked at the package, she couldn’t believe the name that she saw on its label. It simply said Johnson. Hillary Harris, then 31, was living next door to Dawn Johnson, then 50, who formerly lived in Greenwood.
She had no doubt that Dawn was her long lost half-sister. “I was almost speechless. I called Lance right away and said: Her last name is Johnson. That’s Dawn Johnson. It’s got to be her. It’s got to be,” Hillary later recalled in an interview with the BBC. An introvert by nature, Hillary didn’t know where to take things from there. She wouldn’t know what to do with herself if Dawn rejected her. That’s when Lance stepped in with some great advice.
Reaffirming Her Suspicions
Lance told Hillary to just muster up some courage and start a casual conversation with Dawn. Once things were rolling smoothly, he suggested she could just bring up a question about the identity of her father just to double check that the two women indeed shared the same biological father.
Despite all of her husband’s encouragement, Hillary ultimately couldn’t bring herself to talk with Dawn. She just didn’t want the woman who was possibly her sister writing her off as strange. Lance decided that they could approach her as a team. While he wasn’t related to Dawn by blood, he still felt too heavily invested to watch Hillary’s opportunity fly by. It was Lance’s turn to take charge of the situation.
Working Together As Husband and Wife
To begin with, Hillary didn’t feel fully comfortable with Lance’s idea. Her mind concocted an array of awkward scenarios that ended with her and Lance being perceived as the neighborhood nut jobs. She also considered the possibility of her childhood adoption being some dark family secret that Dawn never knew about. If that be the case, it could change how she’d feel about her father.
After some convincing, Lance eventually convinced his wife that everything would be okay and that she couldn’t sit silent over the issue forever. The next day, the couple took a stroll to Dawn and Kurt’s house planning to address them.
Lance and Hillary felt pretty confident while walking up to Dawn and Kurt’s house. They knocked on the door and came face-to-face with their neighbors. However, things changed once the conversation started to roll. The couple couldn’t find the opening they needed amid the chatter. Before they knew it, the visit was over and they found themselves walking home defeated.
Later that evening, Dawn was getting ready for a trip back to Greenwood to get the last of her and Kurt’s things. As she got into her truck, she noticed Hillary watching her from her living room window. Dawn felt that it was a bit strange, but didn’t think much of it. Little did she know, Hillary was just preparing herself to ask the big question. She was going to go with a method that couldn’t fail.
Technology To The Rescue
Luckily for Hillary, the two woman had exchanged phone numbers when they first met. This meant that thanks to the magic of texting, she could completely avoid the angst that comes with a face-to-face showdown. Hillary began typing out a question that she thought would be the perfect way to transition into the serious subject matter.
She asked Dawn the following: “Were you the Loyal Corn Fest queen in 1983?” Hillary’s heart was pounding out of her chest after she hit the send button. She immediately when to consult Lance about what she had just done. Together, the two of them awaited an answer.
A Dawning Realization
After a few minutes, the reply came in but Lance and Hillary didn’t get the answer they were looking for. Dawn decided to answer a question with a question and simply asked: “LOL why are you asking me that?” It became quite apparent to Hillary that she had made her neighbor feel uncomfortable.
Before doing anymore damage, Hillary decided that it’d probably be best to get straight to the point. Quickly, she asked Dawn what her birth father’s name was. At that point, Hillary’s hands were literally shaking as she awaited the reply. She didn’t have to wait long as Dawn responded immediately and Hillary’s heart dropped.
Lance and Hillary’s excitement couldn’t be contained once they read Dawn’s response. Her reply said the following: “Wayne Clouse, but he, unfortunately, passed away in 2010.” At last, Hillary’s search had come to an end. She had found her long lost sister.
A celebration broke out in the Harris home. No longer would Hillary need to spend long hours researching or wondering about her past. However, perhaps they celebrated too soon, because they still had to figure out how to break the news to Dawn. The two sat for a minute and figured how’d they make it happen. At that moment, Hillary overcame her introverted nature and made a bold move.
Taking The Plunge
The shy and introverted Hillary picked up her phone and immediately called Dawn. Hillary had no idea how’d she feel about everything. It isn’t everyday that your new next door neighbor turns out to be a long-lost sibling. However, little did she know, Dawn had also been wondering about the strange connection the two shared.
To begin with, Dawn thought it was very strange that her neighbor had called her right after asking about her dad, but everything quickly fell into place. Before Hillary could even murmur a greeting, Dawn asked if they had the same father. From that point on, Hillary would learn much more about her birth father and sister.
Dawn’s Relationship With Her Dad
Dawn explained that while she had known her father for much of her life, it was clear that there were a few chunks of his life that remained a mystery to her. She had only first met her father when she was 18-years-old and he had never told her about any half siblings that she might have.
Hillary was beyond grateful to take in all the information about her long-lost sisters and father. She even learned about a third half-sister. What made it all so beautiful was that Dawn seemed equally excited by the news. After a few hours on the phone, the two decided that it was time to do something big.
Meeting Face-To-Face As Sisters
When Dawn arrived back from Greenwood, she wasted no time and headed directly for Hillary’s front door. When Hillary opened the door, Dawn immediately said, “Hi sis” and presented her with flowers and an array of photos of their father. Hillary was immediately brought to tears by the touching tokens.
And this was only the beginning of a beautiful relationship. The two sisters were both open to building a bond with one another and would end up seeing each other on a nearly daily basis. As Hillary and Dawn got to know each other better, their relationship began to take a very unexpected turn.
An Unexpected Result
Years of hard research had all paid off for Hillary. Her work didn’t result in a few shallow meetings with some uninterested blood relatives, but in a meaningful relationship with a whole new family. Given the 19-year age difference, the sisterhood between Hillary and Dawn eventually morphed into more of a mother-daughter relationship. Dawn even began to act as an aunt to Hillary’s daughter Stella.
As you can guess, the news media jumped on the story. Having your long lost sister move into the house next door, isn’t something that happens very often. The chances of that happening are actually unbelievably rare. Once the story spread, it became an international sensation. Hillary and Dawn’s story was covered by the likes of BBC News, Good Morning America, The Washington Post and a number of smaller media companies and the two women found themselves in the limelight.
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