Reunions
Adopted woman searches for long-lost sister only to discover she’s been living right next door
What a crazy story. I can't imagine the odds.
Mary Rose Garra
10.29.21

At 31 years old, Hillary Harris had always suspected she was adopted

Deep down, she longed to meet her birth family.

“I always wanted to find them,” she told CBC News.

“It was always in the back of my mind and I knew that eventually I would search when I was ready.”

The wife and mother of one moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in 2005.

Around this time, Hillary had received a packet from Catholic Charities.

The paperwork revealed her birth parents’ names.

“I also learned in that packet that my birth father Wayne had passed in 2010,” she mentioned to ABC News.

“They included his obituary. In his obituary is where I learned that my half-sister Dawn [Johnson] was from Greenwood, Wisconsin, and was the Loyal Corn Festival Queen in the 80s.”

YouTube Screenshot - CBS Mornings
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - CBS Mornings

Hillary was able to locate three of her half-siblings on Facebook. But Dawn had evaded her. Hillary said in an interview with People:

“I was beginning to think that I’d never find her.”

While Hillary was at home one day, she noticed a family moving in next door.

But when she went out to introduce herself, the conversation made her jaw drop.

“I learned that the woman’s first name was Dawn, her partner’s name was Kurt Casperson and that she was from Greenwood — the same town where Dawn Johnson lived according to the obituary I’d found for my father,” she explained.

YouTube Screenshot - CBS Mornings
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - CBS Mornings

“I told my husband, ‘Her name is Dawn — what if she’s my sister?’ and we both laughed and said, ‘No way.’ No way could that be.”

Hillary didn’t forget the tidbit information, despite their scoffing. Indeed, it remained at the forefront of her mind.

Now fast forward two months…

As Hillary looked out the window, she noticed a package of shingles delivered to the neighbors — and on the tarp is written the name ‘Johnson.’

YouTube Screenshot - CBS Mornings
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - CBS Mornings

The woman was overjoyed.

She screamed and ran around the house before calling her husband Lance to tell him the news.

“Her name is Dawn Johnson! It has to be her!”

“Well, that’s it,” Lance said.

“We’re going to have to go over and talk to her.”

When they approached Dawn for a conversation, Hillary was far too shy to inquire about the woman’s family history.

“I was just so nervous,” she admitted, “and I was worried about rejection.”

“She must have thought I was really strange, staring at her to see if she looked like me.”

Hillary couldn’t get everything off her mind later that night.

She took out her phone and texted Dawn, asking if she was the Loyal Corn Fest queen in 1983.

“LOL,” the woman answered. “Why are you asking that?”

“I decided right then to go for it, and I asked her another question: Who is your birth father?”

Unsplash - Priscilla Du Preez
Source:
Unsplash - Priscilla Du Preez

Hillary couldn’t believe her eyes when Dawn replied with the name ‘Wayne Clouse.’

“I started hollering and freaking out, then I called her immediately,” Hillary explained.

“We were on the phone for hours that night, crying and talking. Neither of us could believe it.”

Dawn at 50, mentioned that she didn’t meet Wayne until she was 18.

“It never occurred to me to ask if he had other kids,” she shared.

“I was as shocked as Hillary was to learn that we were sisters.”

Hillary and Dawn are now inseparable.

Hillary revealed, “I love that she is kind and caring. I love that she loves me. I love that she is my sister and gives me advice. I love everything about her.”

YouTube Screenshot - CBS Mornings
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - CBS Mornings

Although the sisters kept their story private for over a year, they now hope it will inspire others who are looking for birth relatives.

“Our story is living proof that it pays not to give up.”

Click the video below to hear more about this heartwarming story!

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By Mary Rose Garra
hi@sbly.com
Mary Rose Garra is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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