A grandfather tracked down his biological parents after taking a DNA test – and met his birth mom 63 years after she placed him for adoption.
John White, 63, was adopted in January 1960 after his mom, Benita, 88, gave him up when she was just 24 to a Catholic orphanage for a “better future.”
Benita, who is originally from the Philippines, fell pregnant following a “brief romance” with John’s biological father, Eddie, 87, while studying for a master’s degree at Syracuse University in New York.
Benita, who had been awarded a scholarship to study abroad, instantly realized John would have a “better future” living in the U.S. than being brought up in the Philippines.
She made the difficult decision to place her son in a children’s home after deciding to continue with her studies and focus on her career.
John was adopted by Edgar and Juanita White, aged 36 and 35, respectively, but had no idea of his dual Filipino-Thai heritage for 63 years.
He had been told his birth parents were foreign students but it was only after his mom, Juanita, 82, died in 2008 that his “natural curiosity” led him on a quest to find them.
John was finally able to track them down when he took a DNA test in 2016 and submitted his results to database website Ancestry.
He said meeting Benita in February 2023 was “humbling.”
John, an account executive from Kansas City, Mo., said: “My adopted parents had told me my birth parents were foreign students.
“I knew my U.S. parents had chosen me and that they loved me very much.
“Even though I felt loved my physical differences were there, always playing out in the background.
“I wanted to reconnect with my culture.”
John contacted the adoption agency in New York in 2011 and requested any records they had on Benita and Eddie. The only information he knew, at the time, was that his parents were both foreign students in the New York area.
In return, he was sent non-identifying information – including the date, time and place of his birth.
But John struggled to find any more specific information about his birth family.
“When the search would go cold and I had to put it to the side, I did have a lot of moments of feeling discouraged,” he said.
John was finally able to locate his father, Eddie, in Bangkok, Thailand after the introduction of Ancestry DNA kits in 2016.
“I spent $68 on a kit – and to access the database. I found I have a sibling through Eddie, who was born before me here in the U.S. Her DNA was on the database.
“When I wrote a letter to her, her sister responded to me. She explained that Eddie was still connected to each of my siblings and had he known I existed – he would’ve loved to have been part of my life.
“They gave me Eddie’s phone number, and they gave him mine. Immediately, he called me and invited me to Bangkok.
“From 2017 to 2019, it became a yearly tradition for me and him to spend time together in his birth city.
“It was surely a great moment, meeting him for the first time. It was very cathartic.
“Having been raised in American culture for the last six decades, it was really humbling to find out more about my birth culture.
“He was so proud of me – and had no hesitancy in introducing me to friends as his son. It was really touching.
“In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to our annual visits. Since then, I’ve only been able to connect with him via video call.”
Having been able to access his original birth certificate via his adopted parents, John was able to find Benita on the Ancestry database and initially made contact with her in 2020. She’s now living in British Columbia, Canada.
He said: “She was reluctant to meet me, at first.
“Understandably, she’d kept me a guilty family secret for all those years. But I think what changed her mind was the fact she’d always wondered what had happened to me.
“We met for the first time two weeks ago – in February 2023. We had a very good reunion.
“When we met for the first time in 63 years, I was able to give her a warm embrace. We looked into each other’s eyes for a long moment. I believe I’ll always remember that.
“She told me many stories about her time in hospital, giving birth to me.
“The rule was, she wasn’t allowed to see me after I was born. But a nurse made a mistake and brought me back in, so she could feed me.
“When she realized her mistake, I was taken away from her again. We both cried. She felt very guilty after that first feeding – and she had a hard time dealing with those feelings for a very long time. Thankfully, she was able to work through it with the help of a priest.”
John says – despite his mother’s initial concerns – he considers his relationship with Benita to be “really fulfilling.”
He said: “It has answered the question in our minds that one of us is okay.
“I was always curious that she was alright – and she was always curious that I was.
“As a father – and now grandfather – I have a deeper understanding of that bond with a child.
“I instantly just wanted to let her know that she’d made a good decision, placing me in adoptive care.
“I’ve been able to communicate that to her, and she knows.”
Eddie said: “It feels amazing and beyond imagination to meet my son – especially at my age – and after all these years.”
Benita and Eddie are yet to meet John’s five children and nine grandchildren – but he intends to keep seeing her at least once a year.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker