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Published Thursday June 11th, 2009 at 7:22pm

Original Article

Christmases, Thanksgivings and other family holidays will never be the same again for Ralph Glessner. Nor for Mary Fedorenko. They now have each other - and plenty of new family members, too.

"It feels wonderful," Fedorenko said. "More people to love."

Glessner, 46, of Hanover, and Fedorenko, 31, are brother and sister. Glessner saw his baby sister once when she was 4 months old. She was adopted shortly after that, and they've been looking for each other for most of their lives.

The brother and sister were finally reunited Saturday.

Life without a family:

Life got complicated for Glessner when he was still just a boy. Because of family problems, he was placed in the Paradise School for Boys. When Mary was born Glessner got to meet his 4-month-old sister when his family visited him at Paradise. He held her, and that was the last time he saw her for more than 30 years.

He left the boys' home when he was 17, and moved back to Hanover. He got a room, he got a job, and moved on with his life. All the while, he wondered about that little baby. She must be what, 7, by now?

The years drifted by, and somewhere out there, he knew his sister was growing up. But where? What were her parents like? What kind of life was she living?

When he got his job with Hanover Shoe Co., met his wife, and they had their first child, his sister must have been in elementary school - probably first grade, or maybe kindergarten.

"The not knowing, I think, was the worst of it," Glessner said.

Over the years, Glessner and his wife, June, had three more children. His sister would have been about 20 when his second child was born. He heard once, maybe from his parents, that she lived with a family of doctors. She could have been driving a Beamer, he speculated, and may be spoiled rotten. But, that's OK. His baby sister deserved that kind of life, he said.

"I wondered every day about her," he said. "She was always in my heart."

Adoption information can be difficult to find, he said. The laws are strict. Depending on the arrangement with adoption agencies or children's services groups, it's often difficult to find someone who has been adopted - even for siblings.

That changed for Glessner several weeks ago.

A voice on the phone:

The brother and sister's first conversation on the phone was nothing but tears of joy and relief for the first few minutes. It came about unexpectedly, and with the help of a private investigator.

June Glessner was surfing the Web one day, and had found a man who wanted to organize a reunion for boys who attended Paradise. She told her husband Ralph, who contacted the man and found out he was a private investigator, and knew the strings to pull to find people.

June Glessner later suggested maybe he could help find her mysterious sister-in-law.

The investigator is from Hanover, and helped as a personal favor. Because he investigates insurance fraud and the like, Glessner didn't think he would want to be identified for this story.

Glessner had one possible link that could help the investigator find his sister. When his father died, he left behind a strongbox containing important documents. One was his sister's Social Security card. He gave the investigator the number.

"He said, ‘Can you accept it if she thinks you're part of her past, and wants nothing to do with you?'" Glessner said about his conversation with the investigator. "I said I just want to let her know she has a brother who loves her, and he's here if she ever needs anything."

The investigator called Glessner a few days later and said he had urgent news, and asked him to come over to his house. He handed him the phone, saying his sister is on the other end.

After all those years, Glessner always thought he'd know what to say. But, all he could do was cry.

"When I got on the phone, I said, ‘Is this Mary?'" he recalled. "I went to tears. She said as soon as she heard my voice, her heart told her it was me."

And the kicker. All these years, they have been less than three hours apart. She lives near Philadelphia in Upper Darby.


"A lot of questions have been answered," Glessner said.

He found out that Fedorenko had been looking for him, too. She didn't know what to expect. She imagined many things. Her brother was possibly living the high life somewhere like California. But, he's just a day's trip away.

They talked every day after that first conversation, and met for the first time Saturday at a family cookout at Glessner's home on High Street.

"We had an instant connection," she said. They stood in his yard, arms around each other, and tears in their eyes. "I feel like I'm home."

"It makes me so happy to hear that," her big brother said.

She was adopted, and grew up in a big family with three brothers and two sisters - like "The Brady Bunch," she said. Her adopted mother is a nurse, and her adopted father is a pool guy, she said. It was a normal, middle-class childhood.

But Fedorenko was the only one with red hair and green eyes. Her parents were open about her being adopted, and she knew all that time she had a brother. Through children's services, her birth parents sent Christmas cards every year early in her life. They signed it "Love Mom, Dad and Ralphie." She had just as many questions about her brother as he had about her, and she was looking for him ever since she turned 16.

She found a new family, and brought along a family of her own. Fedorenko has been married for eight years, and has a son and a daughter.

This day completely changed future family holidays, both said. New brothers and sisters and in-laws and cousins. Christmases, Thanksgiving - Glessner said it's changed forever. More people to love, Fedorenko said. Memorial Day, Labor Day - there will likely be a bunch of extra dogs and burgers on the barbecue.

The Fedorenkos were thinking about moving to Michigan. But now they have something to keep them here. Family.

"This is just the beginning of a new chapter," Glessner said.

The family is reunited.