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Published 10/24/2009 at 10:40am  |  Views: 6138
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by Jon Mark Beilue
Original Article


Marlene Jones with her daughter, Anne Strong Murphey.
Daughter who was given up never gave up at all

She didn't even get to see her, much less touch her. With cold efficiency, the newborn was taken from doctor to nurse to adoption worker. And that was it. Gone.

Marlene King had lost two children in childbirth, and had given birth to two boys, Larry, 5, and David, 3. This was different. She knew it was a mistake, how this child was conceived, and she had been paying for it for nine months. And now this.

"Adoption seemed like the cowardly thing to do, but it was right," Marlene said. "I may have changed my mind if I saw her, though. They told me she was a very pretty baby. I cried for days."

Originally, she was labeled "Failure To Thrive," when she lost 3 pounds while in a foster home. But that changed when James and Barbara Strong adopted her one month later. Anne Strong knew she was adopted at such a young age that she thought everyone was. Her parents had a book, "The Chosen Baby," they read to her and her older adopted brother.

Growing up, she loved her dad, a design engineer for the railroad. She felt especially close to him but had a hard time with her mother.

"We had a very, very difficult relationship," she said. "That and a lack of nurturing from her made me miss my birth mother even more, because I knew she would have never done some of the things my adoptive mom did."

There were nights Anne would look at the stars through her bedroom window and sing a little song to herself, "Mom, where are you?"

Ferdossi was his name. He was a lieutenant in the Iranian Air Force stationed at Amarillo Air Base in 1960. Tall and handsome. Her family invited servicemen home for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. He returned the gesture by inviting them to the base. Marlene had gone there to play bingo and to dance with him.

"The first word that comes to my mind was debonair," she said. "He had a real good personality and danced real well."

Marlene and Bob King had divorced in 1959. With two young children, she felt vulnerable and lonely. She was 30 and made a mistake that had consequences, huge consequences, in 1961.

"I felt guilty for having had an affair outside of marriage," she said. "I was not brought up that way."

At the third month of her pregnancy, when she was beginning to show, her parents arranged for her and the two boys to go to Redwood City, Calif., to live with an aunt and uncle. There was too much stigma, too much shame for an unwed mother from a solid Amarillo family to give birth like this in their hometown.

She delivered the baby on Oct. 21, 1961, at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. The boys were back in Amarillo, and in a few days she returned too.


Anne Strong Murphey sits with her mother, Marlene Jones , on Wednesday in Amarillo, together for the first time since Anne's birth. Anne was born and was whisked away to an adoption before Marlene even had a chance to touch her.

'I cried like a baby'

Anne and her family moved to Bakersfield, Calif., when she was 5. She stayed there until 1986. She moved to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where she married, became Anne Strong Murphey and had a little girl named Rachel Anne. In 1996, she moved again, this time to Reno, Nev. Anne and her husband divorced in 2000.

Woven in the threads of her life was a hunger to find her birth mother. A career in sales, raising a now-13-year-old daughter, a marriage, all of that took priority. But always, always, locating her genetic lifeline was there.

"It's hard for people who aren't adopted to understand," Anne said, "to never see them or know their names. I never felt unwanted and had nothing but respect and admiration for what she did. But I always wanted to connect - at least one time."

Marlene rekindled the relationship with her ex-husband, and Bob and she remarried in 1963. Together had their youngest son, Kent. Bob died in 1978 at age 50 from lung cancer. She continued working at First Federal Savings and Loan. Marlene married Wallace Jones in 1985, and he died in 1998.

Marlene never told her sons about their sister. Didn't see the point. It was long in the past. What was done was done. That was her cross alone to bear.

"I put quite a bit out of my mind over the years, but not all of it. It was always there," she said. "I thought I would never hear from her. I could have tried to track her down, but I didn't want to interfere with her family. And I didn't know how she might take it."

If she only knew.

In February, Anne signed up with Texcare, a registry to help locate adoptive children and parents. Nothing happened. Then in July, July 6 to be exact, a woman e-mailed her. She had found her family through Texcare and offered to help her. No scam. No strings attached. This stranger was part angel, part Sherlock Holmes.

Through Social Services in San Mateo County, where Anne was born, the woman was able to piece together valuable information. Within 24 hours, she had Anne's mother's name and her three sons' phone numbers. Nervously, Anne phoned David King, 51, living in Edmond, Okla.

"I introduced myself and said, 'I'm doing some research on my family tree, and is your mother's maiden name Marlene Earlene White?' He said yes. And I said, 'Well, I have reason to believe she's also my mother.' You could have heard a pin drop."

Anne then asked if she could read more information about her and the family that she had, and David was free to say stop any time he wanted. The information was detailed and on the money.

"If you could have a poker face on the phone," she said, "then I'm sure that's what David had. He said, 'Yes, it all fits. Let me call you back.'"

On July 8, he called. "He said, 'This is your brother, David, I just want to know you have the right woman,'" Anne said. "That moment was so huge that I got down and cried like a baby.'"

A cross-country trip

Marlene told her grown sons the truth, about her vulnerability and mistake of nearly 50 years ago, and to her considerable relief, they took it well. Anne left it up to Marlene to call if she wanted. Of course she wanted, but she was nervous. On July 10, she did.

Anne was at work, but when the call came, she went to her car. She plugged in her cell phone so it wouldn't die. The two talked and cried for nearly three hours - Anne in a car in Reno, Nev., and her mother at The Canyons retirement community on West Seventh Street.


Mother and daughter hold hands.

Plans were made for Anne to travel to Amarillo around Labor Day, but those got scratched. Instead, it was moved to this week.

It was a 16-hour drive for Anne and a friend, from Reno to Las Vegas, and from Las Vegas to Amarillo. That leaves a lot of time to think, of what this union with her mother would mean. She's still close to her adoptive dad. Her adoptive mother died in 2001.

"It completes the circle of life," she said. "Some friends of mine said that we can't believe you found her in a day. No, it was 48 years because of all that time of hoping and wishing and praying, and she hoped and wished and prayed. It just came together in one day.

"It's this piece of puzzle that was missing in my life. It had encompassed my entire life. That missing piece is now filled with love. I didn't want to die without finding her or doing everything I could to find her."

Anne was supposed to arrive at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but storms delayed getting to Amarillo until 2 a.m. Wednesday. It was her 48th birthday, Oct. 21.

And so, 48 years to the day, that circle of life was completed. It wasn't in a hospital room, but at a retirement community. This time, Marlene Jones saw her daughter and her beautiful olive skin. This time, she touched her face. This time, tears mixed together on their cheeks. And it was good. It was all good.