Miracles do happen: Douglasville woman reunited with siblings after 62 years


Douglas County Sentinel

Mitch Sneed / Editor

July 20, 2013 10:45 pm


"Miracles do happen:' Douglasville woman reunited with siblings after 62 years

Imagine the feeling of being abandoned by your mother in a hotel room, sent to an orphanage, foster homes and then being adopted by a loving family, but still having so many questions eating you up inside. Welcome to the world of Douglasville’s Brenda Seedorf.

But today many of those feelings are gone — because after 62 years — she was recently reunited with a brother and sisters she was separated from when she was less than 2 years old. To top it off, she can thank her never ending curiosity, her husband’s Internet exploration and new tighter identification requirements to renew a driver’s license in Georgia.

“For most of my life I knew I was adopted and that my mother had abandoned me in a hotel room in Selma, Ala,” Seedorf said. “The maids had found me after two days and took me to an orphanage. I was told that I went to two foster homes before Leonard and Ella Groce adopted me. But even then, it took them two years to get papers signed by my mother saying they could adopt me. But I always wondered. I thought I had brothers and sisters, but I really didn’t know.

“In the 1970s and 80s I looked and looked, but every time I would look, I was told the records were sealed or I would hit some dead end. I had pretty much given up.”

But then came a break. In preparing to get her driver’s license renewed, she realized that she didn’t have the original birth certificate that the Department of Driver Services now requires. She called Cartersville to get a copy and when it came, she found her father’s full name and saw listed on the bottom that there were four other siblings — one male and three female.

“I finally had a name and knew that I had one brother and three sisters. It was like I finally really had something that I could use to search with,” Seedorf said.

She used Ancestry.com and started digging for all she could find of Garland Edward Free from Demorest. Then her husband Hank found an obituary on the site of Barrett Funeral Home in Cleveland for her father. There in the announcement from June of 2012 among the survivors were the names of a brother and two sisters. That was on a Sunday night and Brenda said she could hardly sleep waiting to call the funeral home the next day for help.

“I called Barrett Funeral home and told them who I was and that I was trying to find my brother Clyde free and told them about the obituary,” Seedorf said. “He put me on hold for a minute and he gave me my brother Clyde’s number. I couldn’t believe that I was so close after all that time. I was so nervous. I was almost afraid to call, not knowing what to expect.”

But she called that evening and when Clyde answered, he was excited as she was.

“She said ‘Clyde this is your sister Brenda,’” Clyde recalled. “I hollered in to my wife it’s Brenda. After all that time she was right there on the phone.”

Clyde got her in touch with her sisters Virginia Gosnell near Athens and Charlotte Shook near Seattle. The others had lost touch with another sister Caroline over the years. Clyde and Brenda met in Douglasville on June 16 and are planning for everyone to get together in Hiawassee on Sept. 7.

She said that her talk with her brother helped fill in some of the blanks. It seems her mother, Minnie Wilson Free, had taken Brenda to an Atlanta hospital when she was 17 months old because she was very ill. Clyde said his mother never came back. Clyde was raised by grandparents and two of the sisters were in an orphanage for a time. All that was news to Brenda, who for years could only wonder about her family. Brenda said all she could remember as a child going from place to place with her mother, often not eating for a day or two at a time.

“Now I know that part,” Seedorf said. “I didn’t remember much before I was adopted. They were so good to me, but before them all I can remember is going from place to place and being hungry. I had even blocked out the part about being found in the hotel when I was 4. But now it all fits after all this time.”

When she got together with Clyde he gave her the wallet that belonged to their father, complete with the pictures that were in it. She was able to look at a scrapbook from when he lived in California. Through those books she said she gets an idea of what her father must have been like. Clyde also gave her a picture of her sitting in a chair as a baby and shared stories with her about her dad, especially some from his final years.

“He told me that my dad would say almost every night, ‘I wonder where Brenda is. I don’t know, but God knows,’” Brenda said. “Knowing that even after all those years he still remembered me and wondered about me — that means a lot.”

Clyde said that he searched every way that he could think of and his father did too. But the years, the multiple states involved and just time made it tough.

“I looked and looked, especially as I got older,” Free said. “I would find something and it wouldn’t lead anywhere. A woman gets married and the name changes and it is tough to find them. But to be there in Douglasville and me here in Cleveland, so close really, I couldn’t believe it.”

Brenda said she finally has a real sense of who she really is and where she came from. See said her adoptive parents were good people but they have been gone for decades. Now she has a family.

“I’m here to tell you that miracles do happen,” Seedorf said. “This is proof of that. I still can’t believe it is really happening. Most people are upset because of all the stuff you have to have for a driver’s license. Me, I’m thankful. If it wasn’t for that I may never have found them.”