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Published Monday January 11th, 2010 at 2:02pm

Original Article by Laura Oleniacz

When Anita Spencer would go to fill out family medical history forms at the doctor's office, she had to mark "unknown" when it came to questions about her birth mother.

The 68-year-old was separated from her mother when she was 11 months old, and was raised by her uncle and aunt on her father's side. The little she knew of her birth mother she learned secondhand from her stepmother

Anita Spencer displays a blurred locket photo of her mother, Angeline Buzzell, one of the few items she has to remember the woman who was absent from her life for nearly seven decades.
and other family members.

But now, Spencer has answers.

Through the Internet, she was able to connect with seven half-siblings on her mother's side that she didn't know she had, and eventually, to meet her mother after 67 years of separation.

Spencer's half-siblings found her online, called her in October of 2009 and asked her to meet them in Charlestown, New Hampshire, because their mother was sick and dying of cancer.

In November, Spencer went to meet her mother before she died late in the evening on Thanksgiving Day. The experience of meeting her mother and her seven siblings on her mother's side was life-changing.

"This chapter of my life now has closure," Spencer said in a recent interview in her New Bern, North Carolina home. "And I'm beginning a new chapter and a journey with my new family."

A life-changing call

When Spencer received that first phone call from her half-sister, she said she was watching TV with her husband Norman, 72, in their living room.

She said she doesn't like telemarketers, but she's now glad she didn't hang up on the caller. It was something in the way the caller said "Are you Anita?" that made Spencer stay on the line.

The woman began asking her questions to confirm her identity. Was she born in Newport, Vermont? Was her mother's maiden name Angeline Ferland?

The woman was able to confirm that Spencer was indeed the Anita she was looking for. She then divulged that she was her half-sister, and that her mother was still alive.

"It was overwhelming," Spencer said of the call. "I got off the phone and I sat down and I said to Norm, 'I'm so emotional. I don't know whether I'm coming or going.' "

Spencer's siblings had found out about her existence after a photo surfaced of their mother holding a baby. They had thought that the baby was their oldest sister, but when they questioned their mother, they were told, "No, that's Anita."

Their next question was, "Who's Anita?"

Shirley Hodgdon of Charlestown, N.H., the sibling who was the first to question their mother about the photograph, said she wanted to find Spencer because she was curious about the sister she never knew she had.

Hodgdon's mother was living with her at the time. She said that one of the health care workers from hospice care who was helping to care for her told her that sometimes, an event in a person's life can hold them back from dying.

Hodgdon thought that maybe she was waiting to reconnect with Spencer.

"After my mom was telling us about Anita and stuff, she says, 'I'd give anything to see her, and this and that,' she said. "We were determined to find her."

Hodgdon and another of her siblings, Gail Mathews of Charlestown, N.H., went to the Internet to look for Spencer, and eventually found her on, a Web site that Spencer had used herself to try and locate her mother.

"I am so happy that mom had told us about her, so that we can now have a relationship," Hodgdon said. "Whatever possessed her to come out with it that night, I don't know."

Mathews said she was ecstatic about meeting Spencer.

"I'm glad that everything came out, I'm glad that we met her, (that) we have another sister," she said.

Questions answered

After the call, Spencer said she still had mixed feelings about the possibility of meeting her mother. She had been told that when she was a baby, her young mother had left her alone at night to go out dancing and drinking, Spencer said, and that her father couldn't take care of her because he worked nights.

She knew that her father was an alcoholic, and she believed from what she was told that her mother was an alcoholic, too.

"All this time I believed what was said about her, because I had no other way to know any different," she said. "I didn't want any part of her from hearing this, and I shared with people, and they said, 'how could a mother do that to her child: leave her alone?'"

Spencer said she thought she might not be getting the whole story because she said she was told that when she arrived at her aunt and uncle's home, she was malnourished.

"So, fillings in the blanks now, it looks like he must have taken me and tried to raise me on my own and wasn't successful so he took me to my aunt and uncle's," she said.

Spencer was able to have most of her questions answered when she logged onto Yahoo! Messenger to chat on the Internet with her half-siblings.

They told her that what she'd heard about her mother wasn't true, and that her father had allegedly used a gun to threaten her mother to give Spencer up. Spencer was also told that her mother had then tried to get her back.

Ultimately, however, it was her husband who convinced her to meet her birth mother.

"He had encouraged me to go up and meet her, because he said, 'there must be a lot of love in that family, she must have done something right to raise seven children besides you,' " Spencer said.

'We just made memories'

When Spencer walked into the room where her mother was sitting on the couch, her mother jumped to her feet, and hugged her.

"She had her arms around me, and she said 'oh it's so good to see you,' " Spencer said. "We just made memories that day."

During the next week she spent with her new-found family, Spencer said she spent her time looking at family pictures and making little discoveries.

She said there was no denying that she was her mother's daughter because of their physical resemblance, but she also found out they were alike in other ways, too.

She found out that her mother loved clothes and jewelry like she does, that her father played the accordion, and that she shares a love of computers and cats with Hodgdon.

"A lot of these unanswered questions were put aside so that when I met her, I just let everything go, I let God take it away, and I just dealt with the present moment, and focused on what I was there for," Spencer said.

Angeline Buzzell is pictured in October of 2009.

Spencer said that her birth mother died on Thanksgiving Day at age 87, having had bladder cancer and other health complications. And although Spencer was not able to be there for the funeral, she was able to say her goodbyes before she left to return to New Bern.

"When I met her, all I could think of (was): This is my mother. I never thought I'd ever get to meet her," she said.

New love discovered

After meeting her mother and new family, Spencer said she had questions about her past. The meeting has raised new questions about her father's character.

But she said she is glad that she's found a love in her new family, which is important to her, especially since she doesn't get along with her half-siblings on her father's side.

"It was just a miracle, really," she said. "I believe that God works in mysterious ways, and he wanted to relieve this burden that I've been carrying all these years."

She hopes to visit them again soon.

"Thank goodness for the Internet, because that's what got us together," Spencer said.