LaVearnís First Complete Family Reunion
By Rosalind Heaps
Published August 2005
It was April 1949 and LaVearn was in the hospital following the birth of her third child. She did get a glance of him and his dark hair when the nurse mistakenly started to bring the baby into LaVearnís room. Upon entering the hospital room, the nurse suddenly stopped and commented, ďOh, Iím not supposed to bring him to youĒ and then turned and walked back out of the room with the baby. This baby boy would not be going home with LaVearn like the first two children did three and seven years ago. Oh, how she ached to hold him and keep him and take him home to raise with his older brother and sister.
LaVearn Marshall was a pregnant widow with one son and her baby daughter born after the death of her husband following his service in World War II. After getting involved with another man, she found herself pregnant without the means of paying for the delivery of the baby or the income to be able to raise three children properly. Even LaVearnís last minute efforts to try and borrow the money for the hospital bill failed and her new baby boy was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Barbour of Riverside, California.
Time went by and LaVearn remarried, having one more baby daughter. The Barbour family moved from California to Ohio to raise their son near grandparents and other family members, and lost contact with LaVearn and her family. LaVearnís children didnít find out that they had a brother until the mid 1960ís. At that time, they only knew he was a boy born sometime between 1946 and 1950.
It wasnít until years following LaVearnís death that one of the daughters, Rosalind Heaps, inherited her motherís personal papers that included the adoption agreement drawn up by the lawyer for Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Barbour to adopt her baby in April, 1949. With the knowledge that LaVearn had been living in Los Angeles during that time, the investigation was ready to begin, but not without some real hesitation. Would he want to be found? Did he know he had been adopted? How would his adopted parents feel about him being contacted by his birth family? All these questions went through Rosalindís mind until she saw a reunion of siblings with similar circumstances televised on the news. It was Friday night, the end of May, when the newscast aired and Rosalind made up her mind that the pursuit of her missing brother needed to be followed through.
After searching the Ancestry.com website, Rosalind identified her missing brother as James Ralph Barbour, born April 12, 1949 in Los Angeles County from the California Birth Index. That was the easy part. Now to find out where he was currently living was the challenge. After searching several search engines and other websites late that Friday night, Rosalind went on to the Rootsweb.com message board for California adoptions and left a message looking for her half-brother with his name and date of birth. The following Saturday morning, a reply was received from a ďSearch AngelĒ with the address and phone number of her brother in Ohio. Still not sure what the reaction would be from her brother being found, Rosalind wrote a letter that Saturday and then waited.
Jim was at work when the mail arrived. His wife, Debi, opened the letter and read it first. With tears, she called her husband at work and said she was coming with something important for him that had arrived in the mail that day. Jim was afraid that it was bad news because his wife seemed so upset until she reassured him that it was good news; news that he had waited for years to arrive and her tears were tears of joy.
Jim said he knew that he was adopted, that he had an older brother and sister, and that his birth mother was Mrs. Marshall. He was pleasantly surprised to discover he has a younger sister as well. He said he expected that there would be a knock on his door one day from someone telling him that they were from his birth family. He didnít expect the news to arrive in the form of a letter, but was very grateful when it did.
Jim shared that his adopted parents gave him the love, home and family values he will always cherish and appreciate. But having contact with his birth family has answered the questions he has had, including the medical history he needs for his doctors. He commented that he feels more complete having the family he always knew was out there, but had no idea where.
Jim and Debi Barbour could not wait for family members to visit them in Ohio, so they planned a quick trip to Riverside, California to meet Rosalind Heaps, the sister who first contacted them. The date was set and Rosalind contacted her older brother, Duane Barnes in Apple Valley and her younger sister, Debi Kelly in Hawaii. Within three weeks, 40 family members gathered at the Heaps Family backyard for their first complete family reunion and barbecue on Saturday, July 23, 2005. Family members traveled from Ohio, Illinois, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii, and Southern California to meet their brother/ Uncle Jim and sister-in-law/Aunt Debi Barbour.
Like most family reunions, this one included a lot of children with water balloons and squirt gun fights, a lot of good food, pictures, and family stories; many that have never been told before. Jim knew that he had a family somewhere; he just never guessed there would be so many. LaVearn had once said that she wished she had a large family. Hopefully, the next reunion will gather all 50 of her descendants and she will smile down from Heaven and be so pleased that they are all together.
Above photo, LaVearnís children:
Jim Barbour, Debi Kelly, Rosalind Heaps & Duane Barnes
More Reunion Photos