It is Wednesday, June 6. Rick Stadel is sitting on a bench outside his Boulder Hill home, his arm around his sister, Kathleen Brooks. The two have an easy way about them—they talk like old friends, and they clearly enjoy each other’s company.
You’d never know that the two of them met earlier that day. In fact, a month ago, Stadel, 62, had only his uncle’s word that he even has a sister. Now he knows he has two—his older sister, Lois Baumann, is flying in on Saturday, when they will meet for the first time. And his two brothers, Angelo DeBurgo and Carmen Andrea, will join them.
This weekend, for the first time ever, Rick Stadel will have all his siblings in one place. It’s taken decades of searching, but it’s finally happening. Rick grew up an only child of adoptive parents, but now he knows his family is bigger than he ever imagined. And he feels whole.
Rick is a bus driver for the Oswego School District, and a community service officer for the . He, like all of his siblings, was born at the now-demolished Mother Cabrini Hospital in Chicago, and was adopted as a baby.
He grew up in North Aurora, and was told at a young age that he was adopted. But it wasn’t until 1992, when he started suffering from heart problems, that he decided to look into his family history.
Rick and his wife, Anna, take up different parts of this story, telling it the way only two long-married people could. The pair tracked down an uncle in Berwyn, and then two brothers in Kenosha, Wisconsin—Carmen, now 58, and Angelo, now 64, both of whom were raised by their birth mother. (Their mother, Catherine, gave her first, third and fourth children up for adoption, and married twice.)
His uncle told Rick that he also has a sister, but in 20 years of searching, he never found her. He had been told his sister’s name was Jacqueline, but didn’t know it had been changed to Lois when she was adopted. Rick and Anna checked any records they could think of for years, to no avail.
But then, in November of last year, the State of Illinois dropped restrictions on birth certificates, allowing any adult adopted person to request a copy. That opened the floodgates, and within weeks, he and his sisters were in contact.
Kathleen, 60, grew up in Cicero—she was adopted at eight days old—but has lived in Bellingham, Washington since 2008. She grew up knowing she was adopted, but until a month ago, she had no idea she was one of five children.
“It was funny to say at first, that I have a sister and three brothers,” she said, adding that now it feels natural.
Since discovering her siblings, she said, she’s been on the phone to them every day, and they’ve communicated on Facebook, sharing old pictures. Kathleen said that Angelo sent a picture of her birth mother, and she was amazed to find out that they look almost exactly alike.
“After 60 years, this is a wonderful gift,” she said. “Everyone has been so accepting of each other.”
“After the hours we’ve spent on the phone,” Rick said, “it feels like she’s been with me all my life.”
Rick and Kathleen both said they are glad this happened later in life, after their birth and adopted parents have all passed on. This way, they said, it’s not about their parents, not about searching for the past. It’s about them, siblings scattered across the country, discovering one another.
Rick, in fact, said he didn’t want to make any effort to find his birth parents until his adoptive ones had passed on.
“I didn’t want to hurt them,” he said.
“Family is about who raises you,” Kathleen said. “It’s interesting to know more about my birth mother, but I had a mom and dad. We all did well, we had loving homes, good jobs and good lives.”
Lois, the eldest at 65, is the last piece of the puzzle, and Rick and Kathleen both said they are excited to meet her. She is flying to Illinois from Sebring, Florida—a mere 70 miles from the winter home Rick and Anna own—and the family has a party planned for Sunday at Rick and Anna’s home in Boulder Hill. After so long apart, the five siblings will all be together.
You can tell, just looking at Rick and Kathleen, what this discovery has meant to them. They’re giddy, full of joy, overwhelmed at the reconnection. At one point, Rick says, “I guarantee you, we’ll never be alone again.”
And Kathleen smiles, knowing exactly what he means.