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Two sisters reunite for first time 65 years after adoption separation

Christian Valley woman solves mystery of missing sister, brother on spur-of-moment Internet search
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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In the rain and the front yard of a Christian Valley home, amidst the hugs, sobs and tears of joy, a 65-year journey of uncertainty and searching came to an end and a new journey began.

Ann Bodyfelt of Cloverdale, Ore., had flown to Reno and then journeyed over a snowy Donner Summit to reunite with her sister, Karen Simpton, 65 years after they had been separated by parents who had put them up for adoption.

The two had not seen each other since March 1949, when Bodyfelt and her brother were left at a Portland, Ore., orphanage. 

“I cried every night for so long until I just didn’t cry anymore,” Bodyfelt said.

Bodyfelt had been searching for her lost sister since the 1980s, while Simpton started looking in the late 1990s. In February, on a whim, she typed in her birth name – “Beverly Jean Jolly” – into the Google search engine and was shocked to see a letter pop up with a plea posted in 2000 for someone with that name to get in touch.

From there, Simpton was able to located Bodyfelt and phoned her that evening, not knowing what to expect. She had left a message and Bodyfelt returned the call shortly afterward, by then convinced that she had found her long-lost sibling.

When Bodyfelt’s rental car pulled into the front yard of Simpton’s rural home north of Auburn, the two sisters embraced tightly, both sobbing in relief and joy as they looked into each other’s eyes for the first time since 1949. Simpton is now 66 and her sister is 70.

“God I can’t believe this,” Simpton said.

“You’ve grown up,” Bodyfelt said. “You were three months old when I saw you.”

For the next few minutes, as the two long-lost sisters hugged and talked, a bond that had been tested by time and geography but never completely broken was quickly renewed.

“I don’t believe this,” Simpton said.

“Me neither,” Bodyfelt said, as the two held each other tightly, smiling and looking through unbelieving, misty eyes.

“Look at you, you look just like me,” Simpton said through tears. “I always wanted a big sister and I got her now.”

Both chuckled and held up tissues as the tears flowed.

“I’ve gone through a box of Kleenex just getting here,” Bodyfelt said.

And then they hugged again – a patch of human sunlight on a gray day as the rain fell hard but they didn’t feel a trace.

The two will soon be meeting up with their brother, Skip Westerling , who Simpton also hasn’t seen in 65 years. Bodyfelt, Westerling, an older half-brother and an older stepsister, were left at a Portland orphanage. Bodyfelt and Westerling were adopted, while the other two older siblings were raised by grandparents in the Midwest and have since died.

Simpton, at three months old, was too young to be given up. Instead, she accompanied her parents for three months until she was given up and adopted by a San Francisco couple. Simpton grew up in San Francisco and is now retired in Christian Valley with her husband, Mike.

Simpton said Thursday that she doesn’t know what the future will hold.

“It’s going to be a whole new adventure,” she said. “We’re discovering similarities and differences. This is just the beginning. It’s still like a miracle.”

“It’s a whole new world,” added Bodyfelt.

The two sisters agree that perseverance is a key factor in finding a missing sibling or anyone else missing from your life.

“Never give up,” Simpton said. “For us, there was some divine intervention after years of searching and we connected.  When it happens, it’s the right time.”