The Legacy of Mary

The Legacy of Mary

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

The Legacy of Mary

One sword can rarely overcome a score, though one heart may be braver than a hundred.

Samuel James Watson

It was November 1984. I had picked up a copy of Equinox magazine from a table in my daughter’s home and gasped—there before me, in an article entitled “Ghost Towns of Alberta,” was a picture of a man named Lawrence Stewart. Lying in front of him was a pile of books that he called his “Memories of Etzikom.” It had been forty-seven years since I had been taken from my home in Etzikom, Alberta, at the age of five.

I sat there in a state of shock as a little voice in my head said, This is it, Maree.

In 1938 I’d been sent to live in the Kiwanis Home for Children after my mother suffered a nervous breakdown. My father was ill equipped to raise seven children alone, during the Depression, and still look after his farm.

It wasn’t long before I was adopted by a fine family who was well-off enough to give me everything I could have asked for. My other brothers and sisters were either adopted or put into foster homes. I never saw or heard from any of them again. Over the years, when anyone would ask me if I wanted to find my family, I would say, “I will when I can never be hurt again.”

I grew up and worked out a successful career for myself in early childhood education; married my husband, Leo, who loved me very much and encouraged me in everything I did; and became the mother of five wonderful children who thought a great deal of me.

If ever there was a time to find my birth family, it was now—almost fifty years later!

As I sat there in shock, staring at Lawrence Stewart’s article, Leo and I began talking about my memories of my own family. I remembered the names of my brothers and sisters. There was John, Coulter, Mable, Nancy, me (Mary), May and a little brother who had been born just before we were taken away from our father.

“It wouldn’t hurt to write to this Lawrence Stewart and ask what he knows,” suggested Leo. I took the magazine home, and the next day, that’s what I did.

Three weeks later, I received a letter from Mr. Stewart, telling me he’d been in the area for about sixteen years and knew many of the families’ histories. He thought he’d be able to help me. He remembered only one family that had been broken up back then, and their name was Robinson. The father’s name was Dave, and he recalled there was a son named Coulter.

I wrote back to him enclosing a copy of the birth certificate that had been issued to me when I was adopted. My husband and I were leaving the country for six weeks, but I said I’d contact him upon our return. Everyone was excited about the fact that I was finally going to find my birth family.

Upon my return, a letter from Mr. Stewart was waiting for me.

“You are indeed Mary Robinson,” he wrote, “and I have located the rest of your brothers and sisters!” He told me that someone would contact me in the near future, as the family had been trying to find me for many years.

The first to call was Myrtle Keene, the daughter of the family who had raised my little brother, Seymour. I asked her to please let my family members know my whereabouts because I wanted to meet them.

A couple of nights later the phone rang and a voice that sounded like an echo of my own said, “Are you sitting down? Because if you’re not, you’d better do it now. I am your sister May!” A tingle came over my whole body—it was so wonderful to hear her voice after so many years. Her name was now Gail Turner. She told me how she had been reunited with the family some years before and had even lived close to our father in Vancouver before he died. I began to learn more about my family, and we arranged to visit as soon as possible. I was walking on air, and could only think of all the questions I wanted to ask.

A few minutes later the phone rang again, and it was my sister Nancy. I was in tears by now—her voice sounded just as I remembered. Nancy was two years older than me, and she was able to tell me details that I was too young to remember. She had lived in the Kiwanis home in Edmonton until she was about ten years old, and then she had gone to live with a family by the name of Jones. We made plans to meet as well.

As if by magic, the phone rang once more. After forty-seven years, I heard the voice of my little brother Seymour. He told me he had been trying to find me for many years. Seymour had grown up in Etzikom with the Keenes, who had named him Derwood. He told me how, over the years, he had seen our father from a distance, but had been too afraid to approach him. He had also known our mother for a short time, while she lived in The Michener Centre in Red Deer. Seymour has a wonderful sense of humour, and I felt as if I had known him all my life. It turned out that he is the one that my own son, Steven, looks like—and even acts like. We arranged to meet in July so I could hear his whole story.

About a week later, Myrtle phoned from Regina. This was the sister I’d known as Mable. When she learned I’d been found she was so happy she cried for a week! Because she was the oldest, she had somehow thought she should have kept us all together. For all these years she had searched through faces on the street, trying to find a resemblance, but no one looked like Mary. Now that she had talked to me, she wanted to see me right away.

About a month later she came out by bus, and I met her in Cache Creek. I had told her I had glasses and grey hair, but wouldn’t you know—there were three other women at the bus station who answered that description! The bus pulled in and there were many faces looking out the bus window when I heard a voice cry out, “That’s her, that’s my sister!”

Myrtle stepped off the bus, gathered me in her arms and began to sob. She had told everyone on the bus the story of our family and about her long search for her sister Mary. Now, as the happy crowd watched our joyous reunion, we stood there holding each other and crying for a very long time.

After forty-seven years, our long search was over—our family was united once more.

Maree Benoit
McLeese Lake, British Columbia

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners