Eight years ago, “Around Town” shared the story of Ina Lewis’ successful search for two missing links in her maternal family – half sisters Sally Hogsett Andrews and Barbara Hogsett Hein.
Ina, a Blue Springs resident at the time, recalled how she finally found and met her two half siblings following a lengthy search to obtain more information about her biological parents she never knew.
All Ina knew growing up was she was born in 1933 in the Willows Maternity Home in Kansas City as the illegitimate child of a 16-year-old schoolgirl from Olean, Mo., and a 20-year-old man from Enon, Mo. Three months after her birth, she was adopted by Ina and Earl Basey, who changed her name from Phyllis Shikles to Ina Basey.
It wasn’t until a researcher joined the search that she discovered she had two half sisters residing in Oregon. Both were born to Ina’s mother, Helen Shikles, who later married and bore two daughters. Helen died in 2001.
Ina, who now resides at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, met her half sisters – Sally Andrews and Barbara Hein – for the first time in 2006 at Kansas City International Airport. Sally and Barbara also helped Ina search for traces of her biological father while sightseeing in central Missouri where he grew up.
Thus begins Part 2 of Ina’s intriguing search for Robert Jenkins, her biological father.
“My adoptive mother gave me his name,” she said in a recent interview. “She had all that information.”
However, it wasn’t until three years ago, when Ina gave her father’s name to a Missouri researcher, that she hit the jackpot. The tracer found her father in one day, thus enabling Ina to locate five paternal siblings – Roberta Johnson, George Jenkins, Marty Ramsey and Jean Harr, who recently passed away. Another son died earlier.
Elated about finding four half siblings she never knew existed, Ina wrote all of them a letter informing them she was the family’s missing link. Of course, none of the siblings knew Ina existed, either. A shock, to say the least.
“That was three years ago,” she says. “We decided to meet in Washington, D.C., since the ‘girls’ were all quilters and would be attending a quilting seminar in Maryland.”
With Ina’s son, Kent Lewis, living in D.C., the siblings decided to gather at Kent’s home for the get-to-know-you celebration of a family becoming one.
That was the plan. However, two weeks prior to the family get-together, Ina fell, broke a hip and was unable to make the long-awaited trip.
Although a big disappointment, “They went on and met with my son and called me in the rehab facility,” Ina says, informing her they had decided to come to Missouri with their spouses and see their half sister.
And they did. They drove directly to Ina’s Blue Springs home and stayed several days. There they bonded, got acquainted and discovered their many similarities and likes.
“They are wonderful, wonderful people,” Ina says of her siblings, two of whom want to return to Missouri and see her home at John Knox Village. “So they may be coming soon.”
But until they do, the siblings stay connected via the phone, letters and the Internet. They vow nothing will separate them now.
And what did Ina learn about her father?
Says Ina: It is believed that he was passing through the tiny railroad town of Olena, and “we think it was a ‘hi, how are you and good-bye.’”
Ina says her siblings had nothing but wonderful things to say about their biological father.
“They told me their dad was so wonderful, (and) that if he had known that Helen (Ina’s birth mom) was pregnant with me, he would have come back (to Olena) and married her,” Ina says. “That is what they all said to me.”
And what else did they say?
“...That their mother and father never had a cross word that they ever heard,” she says, adding: “That’s unbelievable.”
Meeting and getting to know her half siblings has been a blessing, she says, explaining the best part about finding them is that “I now have medical histories from both sides of the families. Now I know (for sure).”
For adult adoptees born in Missouri to be able to access their original birth certificates and records, she knows that she and other activists cannot give up their longtime campaign to get the current laws changed.
“We have made some progress with some adoptees now being able to get their records,” she says, noting these records do not include the birth certificate. “It’s still denied.”
Although some progress has been made, “There are two bills currently on the books this session (in Jefferson City) that are being stalled in committees in both the House and Senate.
Says Ina: “We adoptees are so tired of being treated as children and discriminated against because of our birth history. We feel that the government has absolutely no business keeping our birth certificates locked up. We feel that document is ours and ours alone, just as everyone else has theirs that were not adopted.”
As for amended birth certificates, Ina says they are “a legal piece of fiction.” “They aren’t true,” she says, explaining they bear only the adoptive names; not the original birth names.
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.