Covina Woman Meets Happy Waterloo, Healthy Heritage in Iowa

Times Staff Writer

It took only a few phone calls and Beverly Flaherty had the answers to a lifetime of questions. Within minutes she discovered:

- She is half Cherokee Indian.

- She's a lot like her Bohemian father.

- She has a brother and a half-sister.

- Her parents really loved her and didn't want to give her up.

Like many adoptees, Flaherty had always wondered about her parentage. She yearned to learn about her ancestry and who in the world she might be related to. She was missing not only the beginning of her life, but also a lot of information that other people--specifically her children--should know. She had pondered possible hereditary traits and medical histories that might have an effect on her and her children.

And besides, Flaherty said, "there was a kind of longing that's always been there."

"I was real leery, too," Flaherty confessed. "You never know what's going to turn up, and I had to be open-minded about this."

Flaherty, an outgoing 37-year-old brunette who lives in Glendora with her husband, Michael, son Brian and daughter Christa, knew that she had been adopted in infancy. Her adoptive parents, the Berkeley Smiths of Waterloo, Iowa, had moved from Iowa to Covina in 1953. She lived happily ever after, Flaherty said, and didn't question her adoptive parents much about her roots because "they were resistant to discussing it."

But the quest and the questions remained.

After the Smiths died, Flaherty found among their possessions a document bearing the names of her natural mother and the lawyers in Waterloo who had handled the adoption. She called the law firm 2 1/2 years ago, soon after she found the papers, and the quest almost ended then, when the lawyers told her that no one there could help her.

But inexplicably, a lawyer from Waterloo called Flaherty last month to tell her he knew her father's name. It was Yanda, and Flaherty, her excitement mounting, found a Yanda listed in the Waterloo telephone directory. It turned out to be a great aunt, who identified Richard Allan Yanda of Fremont, Neb., as the father Flaherty had wondered about most of her life.

She located him and then her mother, and from their telephone conversations and photographs Flaherty has pieced together the beginning of her life story:

Her mother, Bonnie, was a pretty, young Cherokee in Waterloo who became involved with Richard, a former sailor, after her husband became seriously ill. Their baby girl--Beverly--was reluctantly given up for adoption.

Later, after Bonnie's husband died, she and Richard were married and had a son. They were divorced several years later. Richard moved to Fremont, Neb., where he worked as a probation officer until he retired. Bonnie moved to Tucson, Ariz., where she works in a department store. Both have remarried.

"The first thing both of them said was that they loved me and they didn't want to give me up," Flaherty said after their introductory phone calls. "It's been very emotional. I've done some crying."

She shows a snapshot and describes a father she clearly resembles. She said he is of Bohemian ancestry and, like her, is outgoing. Another photo shows her brother, Michael.

There is a picture of Flaherty's attractive, slender mother, who has classic Indian features, and Flaherty's half-sister, Linda, Bonnie's child by her first marriage.

"This has been a little like looking into a one-way mirror," Flaherty said. "They didn't know I was looking in, and I had the advantage of being able to look the other way if I didn't like what I saw. But instead, here I have this wonderful, big family."

"It was a lot of fun," said Flaherty's husband. "I figured we had a lot to gain and nothing to lose by pursuing this."

Once their quest was completed, fears of hereditary medical problems were put to rest: Beverly and Brian and Christa come from strong, healthy, beautiful, long-lived stock.

The whole family plans to get together soon and find a place in their family albums for pictures of each other.

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