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Published Tuesday November 9th, 2010 at 10:17pm

Original Article by Mike Blount

For more than 30 years, Doug Ralson felt a void in his life. Ralson knew from an early age that he and his sister were adopted.

However, recently Ralson, 36, and his sister, Stephanie Ralson, 38, had that hole filled - when they met their birth parents.

Doug Ralson began his search for his birth parents with only the clues found on his birth certificate and what his adoptive parents told him.

"My adoptive parents, Judy and J.B. Ralson, informed me when I was old enough to understand," said Ralson of Hattiesburg. "I was angry at first. I was only 8 or 9 years old at the time but I wondered, 'Why would somebody do that?' and it took years for me to get over that."

Douglas and his sister, Stephanie, were placed in the Texas foster care system in 1975 shortly after Doug was born. After nine months, both he and his sister were adopted by the Ralsons in Tyler, Texas.

With little to go on other than a few clues gathered from his birth certificate and details remembered by his foster parents, Ralson set out searching the Internet for his birth parents.

He knew that they were divorced in 1984. He also knew they had lived in Wichita Falls, Texas, and they had run-ins with law enforcement authorities there. Those run-ins - he believed - were what led to him and his sister being given up for adoption.

Through database searches Ralson and his fiancee, Irene Cochran, 36, found several telephone numbers for his birth mother, Melva Hyre.

Ralson dialed each one carefully and waited for someone to pick up.

Each time, he heard a female voice telling him the number was disconnected.

Discouraged, Ralson almost gave up.

"It hurt for me to see him so disappointed," Cochran said. "But it made me want to dig even harder. Patience is the biggest thing, and I'm persistent so I kept pushing and pushing every night."

That persistence paid off one night when Cochran met a stranger through Facebook.

"Wichita Falls has its own Facebook page so I posted there hoping someone would know her," Cochran said. "Dave saw it and wanted to help."

Dave - being retired Dallas police officer Dave Burkett - offered to use his skills to help track down Ralson's mother.

Burkett and Cochran began corresponding via e-mail. Finally, Burkett found a post made by Hyre on the website dating to 2005. Hyre had been looking too.

Ralson finally had a working telephone number and address. He called.

"When I told her who I was, she knew immediately and we both began crying," Ralson said. "A few days later I drove up to meet her for the first time. The same day Stephanie got in her car and started driving from Texas to Arkansas."

Stephanie Ralson remembers clearly the moment she met her birth mother.

"For so many years, I looked at everyone I saw thinking, 'Well, maybe you're him or maybe you're her,'" she said. "To see someone that favors me is mindboggling and exciting. It was like completing a circle."

Not long after the reunion with Hyre, Doug Ralson got a call from his birth father, who was living in Dallas.

On Oct. 31, the siblings, their adoptive parents and birth mother arranged to meet their birth father in Tyler.

"When he pulled up, he started walking toward me," Doug Ralson said of the meeting. "It was like looking into a mirror."

With his birth parents back in his life, Doug Ralson said he is looking forward to building a relationship with them.

Stephanie Ralson is preparing to move to Arkansas to be near her birth mother.

"I have a job interview out there this weekend and we'll see what happens from there. I would move down there today if I could but I can't do it without getting a job first."

For her part, Cochran said she is happy to see her fiance find his birth parents.

"I lost my mom so I know what it's like to have that void," she said. "Now, he has closure."

Doug Ralson said he communicates with his birth parents almost every day. Though they don't have plans to meet up again yet, he is optimistic about the future.

"My (foster) dad and mom are two of the most humble, God-fearing Christians," he said. "They taught me how to be a good person. You know, most fathers take their son hunting or fishing but my time with dad was spent out in the garden talking about the Bible and learning about work ethic and character.

"I will always love them and think of them as my parents but I needed closure."

As for his birth parents, he harbors no ill will toward them.

"I really believe God had his hand in all of this and he knew they weren't ready to take care of kids," he said. "Now that we're together again, I want to learn to love them like I love my foster mom and dad. I'm looking forward to getting to know them."

He also offered a piece of advice for other adopted children searching for their birth parents.

"Be persistent and keep an open mind. If you don't expect anything and let it happen, you'll never be disappointed."