2 Find a Sibling They Didn’t Know Existed
Jean Grace spent 50 years of her life thinking she was the only biological child of the couple who reared her. Michael Pompilii always knew he was adopted but did not learn he had a sibling until he was more than 40 years old.
It took them a long time to find each other -- Grace searched for eight years, Pompilii nearly 20.
But now the biological siblings -- Grace, 59, lives in Coram, N.Y., while Pompilii, 62, is in Brooklyn -- talk twice a day on the telephone.
“He always calls me and says, ‘Hello, sister,’ ” Grace said. “And before he hangs up he says, ‘I love you, sister.’ It’s totally amazing.”
Although the two found each other in May, their search for family continues. Now they are looking for three other biological siblings -- an older brother and two younger sisters -- whose existence also was kept from them.
“We’re starting to work with the oldest son,” Grace said, of her birth mother’s first child. “I feel as if I lost so much.”
Pompilii, who was born to Mary Vitale Cantatore in 1944, was told as a child that he had been placed into a family at 6 months old and officially adopted at age 6.
But he was not aware he had a sibling until an aunt informed him at his adopted mother’s funeral in 1987.
“As we’re pulling out of the cemetery, she said, ‘You have a sister, you know,’ ” Pompilii said. “I was kind of shocked.”
Pompilii spent nearly 20 years trying to find that sister, filling out forms and waivers, searching on the Internet and working with the New York State Department of Health and New York Foundling Hospital in Manhattan, where he originally was placed.
“It’s a mind-boggling idea, to have a sister,” Pompilii said.
As Pompilii searched diligently, Grace was unaware of her biological family, but grew suspicious when her adopted parents often couldn’t answer questions about her medical history.
“Something was missing,” she said. “Especially when you’re talking to your mother. How could you not know these questions I’m asking? It didn’t make sense.”
In 1998, Grace discovered in her family’s home a box full of papers from New York Foundling, which stated she was adopted when she was 6. Grace went through a similar process as Pompilii to track down the missing pieces of her past.
Both of them, unaware of the other, agreed to let the state Health Department release their contact information in hopes of finding biological siblings.
“I thought, maybe I would get a response, maybe I would not get a response,” Grace said.
On May 24, she did.
As Grace noticed she had received a letter from the state Health Department that day, the telephone rang.
“I looked at the caller ID and thought it could be my cousin,” she said, of the unknown number. “And this man said, ‘You’re not going to believe this: I’m your brother Michael.’ ”
That’s when she opened the letter that matched her and Pompilii as biological siblings.
“I was hysterical, crying,” Grace said. “We talked for hours. It was unbelievable.”
The two finally met June 3 at Pompilii’s home, where they talked for 13 hours, comparing childhood photos and stories and discovering their shared love for ice cream as they ate Chinese food together.
“I just can’t explain how fantastic this was,” Grace said.
Now they’re in the midst of what promises to be another long search for the rest of their siblings.
“Mike said if we find them, fine. If not, we found each other,” Grace said.