WORKING TOGETHER TO UNLOCK THE SECRETS OF ADOPTION
Hi, I will use all names, as I know my secret. It's an interesting story and almost a happy story.
Petersburg, Virginia, December, 1948. My mom, Clara Dee (or Della) Nannie married a Navy man, Franklin T. Wheelhouse Jr. Tom was born Dec. 28 1920. He is from the Petersburg, Dinwiddie county/ Amelia county area. She was from a small coal mining town, Morton's Gap, Kentucky. They met in Petersburg, married in the Monumental Baptist Church.
When he was reassigned, by the Navy, to Key West, Florida, she came along. (picture below, is this me, the tiny little bulge?) I was born June 27, 1949 Randolph Dwight Wheelhouse (ok 7 months, but who's counting) I was the 2000th baby born in the Navel Hospital in Key West. I have the newspaper clipping, given to me by my real Aunt Alma, July 1996. (another warm and tear jerking story) she passed away 1997, at the age 79. She had that clipping (and this picture of Tom and Ann) in a shoe box in the attic all these years. One more year's delay in this story, and that shoe box would have still had these treasures.
In Key West, my dad was stationed on Navy ships (small destroyers) and when he would go to sea for lengths of time, my mom, young and alone, went out on the town? (Ok no giggling) When my dad returned home and found out of her "misjudgments" he divorced her in a court of law.
While my mom was "out," I was dropped off at a neighbors house. Betty Eley and her 15 year old daughter Sylvia would take care of me. Betty was married to Navy Lt. Virgil Eley. When the Eley family found out about the divorce, they started proceedings to adopt me, as they felt they had practically raised me. The courts felt I would be in good hands, so about 1950, I was now Randolph Dwight Eley.
Betty and Virgil didn't last long and divorced. I was sent back to my original mom, now remarried to another Navy man. But the court adoption papers to Betty and Virgil were never un-done. As things do (or families I'm in) Clara and her husband had troubles. I have very faint remembrances of being with her then. I learned to tie my shoes. But I also remember bad treatment. My original dad Franklin (Tom) tracked me down after hearing of rough times Clara and her husband were having. He checked with the courts, and Betty Eley (now divorced but unknown to the courts) would be allowed legally to take me away from my mom and her husband for child abuse.
Tom contacted Betty, and gave her money to go get me. Then she was to take me to him, living back home in the Amelia County, Virginia area.
Good idea, but it didn't work just right. Betty took me back to her home in Key West. She had a good job and along with her older teenage daughter, they raised me. He tried to get me, but the court papers were not on his side, so he decided to let Betty keep me for my own good. I seemed happy. (I was kinda spoiled a little)
Betty married the man I knew as my dad, when I was 8 or 9. He was John William Shea, another Navy man. He was a good man and turned out to be a good dad.
John (Mike) Shea passed away in Miami, June 1986 of cancer, about a week before my birthday. I was grown, 37 but still the baby. When I got the normal birthday card signed "mom" instead of "mom and dad" as I had always received for many years, it hit me, he was gone.
Ten years later, my mom (the woman I thought was my real mom) passed away from a different cancer. I knew John Shea was my adopted (and good dad) but I had been looking into family tree things, with everyone else, and just wanted to know a little about my real dad for history and health reasons. On her death bed and under my questioning about who was my real dad, she said, Tom and Ann Wheelhouse. (Clara went by the name Ann) Betty was under some HEAVY pain medicines so I didn't question the Ann part. I just noted it down, to ask my older sister, Sylvia. I thought Sylvia was my real sister.
I called Sylvia to let her know mom was very close to passing and asked who's Tom and Ann? She asked how I got those names. When I told her, she apologized for not being allowed, by Betty, to EVER tell me. Over the next hour and a half, she told me the whole story. Well her side and it was pretty accurate.
So here I was, 46 and now have a new mom and dad, divorced, so not together but are they still alive. Where are they?
So the BIG question, did I want to try to find a NEW set of parents and someday loose them too? After some very serious thought, I decided to see what I could find out.
4 phone calls and some special LUCK, I found him. My sister Sylvia, wanted to call him FIRST to talk to him. ( still secrets?) I'll never know. I let her call him, and I called the next day. Was he ever glad to hear from me. He had been looking for me for years and years, but as an Eley. Not as a Shea. Tom even remembered teaching my dad (Mike Shea) in a Navy sonar class in back in Key West.
As luck would have it, I was living in Miami, Florida and my birth dad was living in Jacksonville/Orange Park, Florida. It could have been Oregon or California. But Jacksonville? That's a short trip.
November 1995, the Friday after Thanksgiving, I went to see him (second picture below) Talk about "two peas in a pod" I sure hope we broke that mold.( ha ha)
In 1990, I moved to north/central Florida (in the Brooksville woods) My wife's parents were here. Tom and I visit each other, every few months. He's learned to email and we write almost every night.
The OTHER side of my mystery family, my mom, Clara. Through a "friend" I got some good information about Clara's where abouts (Carson City/Reno, Nevada) but it was a year old. She had moved. So Clara is still alive, two years ago. But in route to??? Clara Denicola born Dec. 2, 1928. (no idea when the Denicola began)
I have found out a lot about Clara and her childhood and tragic up bringing, through another good friend. Her mom died from child birth of a third daughter, when Clara was almost 5. Clara was raised by her Mother's, Father's, Brother and wife. Her grand uncle, on her mothers side. The internet is full of good things if you look and ask. Clara has a younger sister in Kentucky and I know her and her husbands name and address. I've gotten a bit of cold feet writing Aunt Eithel (yes EITHEL) Pearl Patterson and Uncle Hobart Vought. Oscar John Patterson was Clara's real fathers last name.
Well that's about it. Too long or too confusing?? You should have seen me piecing all the bits and pieces together, little by little.