BY MELANIE BUCK –
Lynette Peters moved to Mena from the state of Oregon when she was in the 7th grade and for many years after finding out that she was adopted, wondered what her birth family was like. The older she got, the more she wondered about medical history, especially for her son, or how many siblings she may have, so she began a search for her birth family.
Much to her surprise, she discovered that she came from a family of 9-10 siblings and until 7th grade, grew up just 90 miles from her brothers and sisters in Oregon. Over Labor Day weekend, Lynette was able to play host to two of her sisters at her home just west of Mena, in Rocky, on her birthday. Lynette, along with sisters, Donnita Burks and Jenny Kehm, told the story of how they were separated and how they came together again decades later.
The oldest girl, Jenny, now age 64, was raised in the home with their birth parents, Louis and Barbara Powers, along with four other siblings while three others, and possibly a fourth, were adopted out, and one who passed away at birth. The sisters explained that all the adoptions were suspected to be private adoptions and all were given away at birth, and were scheduled months ahead of time.
Jenny explained that she and the others raised at home had no clue that there were other children being born so it also came as a surprise to those raised in the home. “I had not a clue that there were any other children out there until the summer before my junior year in high school when Donnita told me that my parents were actually her birth parents,” explained Jenny. Donnita and their brother, Rocky, were adopted and raised by family members and actually grew up as cousins to Jenny and the others. Donnita was told at the age of six that she and Rocky were adopted and at age 12, she discovered who her birth family was. “My mom was not good at lying and I said, ‘mom if I guess and ask you, will you tell me whether I’m right or wrong,’ and she told me I was right. There were too many similarities going on,” said Donnita.
Jenny now lives in Las Vegas and Donnita is in transition from Alaska to Hawaii. The sisters agreed that Ancestry.com has been a big connecting factor in their puzzle. “I’m happy to find them. I went to searching Ancestry and that’s how we connected,” said Lynette. Jenny had been into the genealogy of the family for years and had posted her findings on the website. Lynette had just enough information about herself to make the connection. There is also possibly another brother that the sisters are seeking out. “We’ve been trying to search. We have a guess. There is a guy in Toledo, Oregon that we suspect may be our brother,” said the sisters. Besides Jenny, Donnita, Rocky, and Lynette, the youngest brother, Johnny, is the only other surviving sibling.
“We’ve learned things about each other like we all do things that each other likes. We all like foods and crafting. We all like to be barefoot and are all hard workers,” said Lynette. “Just in this week, we’ve meshed like we’ve never been apart. We are very comfortable with each other,” Jenny said. “I think that’s family, but I also think that’s how our main years and farm life led to commonality,” said Donnita.
When asked what they would tell others that are considering a search for their birth family, Donnita said, “I recently had a friend who was searching for her birth family and she said that only 3 percent of birth parents don’t want anything to do with the children they adopted out so, the percentage is really high that you’re going to have some kind of relationship with them. I think the biggest question that people have is when they get to the doctor’s office and have to say ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’ to all the questions. It’s not just the emotional stuff, it’s the medical as well.” “At least they can say, ‘I tried’ and would feel more complete and not always wonder,” said Jenny.