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Discovering a new family

By Roy J. Eaton | Published Wednesday, July 4, 2012

NEW FAMILY – Roy Eaton of Decatur (right) met his brothers and sisters recently in Minnesota. They are (from left) Bette Frieler, Kermit Weeks, Mila Slover, Kay Cain and Lloyd Weeks. Submitted photo

Almost 75 years ago a young woman left her job as a nurse at a hospital in Hamilton and made her way to Dallas. Mila Mae Middleton had fallen in love with a soldier from Fort Sam Houston and was pregnant.

An aunt said “her friends tried to discourage her relationship, but he was so outgoing she fell in love with him. Things didn’t work out, and she went away to have the baby.”

When Mila Mae told the young soldier that she was pregnant, he told her he would give her any assistance possible but could not marry her because of his limited financial resources.

She went to Hope Cottage, an orphanage in Dallas. She became a nurse at the nearby Cedars Maternity Home, where she worked until her baby was born Dec. 20, 1937.

“She was such a sweet person and good nurse that they let her hold the baby before he was given up for adoption,” her aunt said.

Mila Mae Middleton was my mother.

Four months later, in April 1938, Virgil and Maurine Eaton of Rhome had been invited to visit Hope Cottage to see an available baby boy. They had been married for 10 years and had been unable to have children.

To my everlasting good fortune, they picked me out of the nursery. Hope Cottage, working through the Dallas County court system, placed me in their ranch home as a foster child. Several months later, District Judge Sarah T. Hughes of Dallas signed the formal adoption papers.

The Eatons paid $7.50, and I was theirs. They named me Roy Jefferson Eaton, with my middle name coming from the family physician that had put them in contact with Hope Cottage.

My life as a Wise County boy had begun, and it was a wonderful experience.

Dad wasn’t much of a church-goer, but Mother made sure that every Sunday we drove to the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth where J. Frank Norris yelled and scared the devil out of you, even if you were too young to know what the devil was. But I sure knew what John 3:16 was, because it was emblazoned on the stage behind J. Frank.

Time went by and Mother and Daddy adopted another child from Hope Cottage. My sister, Linda, came three years after me. We settled into a great life of farming and ranching in south Wise County.

When I went away to college, I worked as a news reporter in radio and television, got married and had a family of my own. We bought the Wise County Messenger in 1973 and moved back to Decatur two years later. And we are still here.

Dad died in 1968 during heart surgery in a Fort Worth hospital, and Mother died in 1993 after suffering a stroke five years earlier. She lived out her life under the care of Gary Hendrix and the nurses at Sunny Hills Nursing Center. She could neither walk nor talk but often stationed herself in a wheelchair outside Gary’s office and greeted visitors with a big smile.

They were wonderful parents, and I would never have embarked on this next adventure had they still been alive.

FAST FORWARD

That brings us to the spring of 2012. My daughter-in-law, Felecia Eaton, was working on her family history through the Internet site ancestry.com, and I gave her my adoption paperwork and told her to see what she could find out about what happened to my birth parents.

A few days later Felecia said she had found some relatives of my mother, and they were interested in talking to me and asked if she should give them my number. Of course, I said yes.

I was in Fort Worth at the time, and when I got home a couple of hours later, I walked in and Jeannine said, “Your sister Kay is on the phone.”

I quickly discovered I had three sisters and two brothers who live in Minnesota. They had no idea that I existed. Our mother had never told them about the child that she so unselfishly gave up for adoption in 1937.

It happens that I am nine years older than the oldest child. Mila Mae, who was 27 when I was born, married Virgil Weeks six years later in 1944. When Mr. Weeks returned from World War II, the family settled in western Minnesota where the children were raised on a dairy and wheat farm in a big house warmed by a wood stove and lots of love.

After the telephone conversation with my sister, Kay Cain, I quickly heard by email from my sister, Bette Frieler, and my brother, Lloyd Weeks. We began planning a trip to Minnesota to meet them all.

That trip was just great. Ironically, all of them live near our longtime newspaper friends Mike and Jan Parta of New York Mills, Minn., and we had visited the Partas just a few years ago. It’s a small world indeed.

My sisters – Kay, Bette and Mila – arranged for a motel and conference room in Park Rapids, Minn., and we flew to Minneapolis-St. Paul, then drove almost four hours. Park Rapids is near the headwaters of the Mississippi River that flows nearly 2,500 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

When we arrived, my sisters were already there, and my brothers Lloyd and Kermit, soon appeared. We had a wonderful day-and-a-half together, even getting to meet some of their children and grandchildren.

We heard many great stories about my birth mother and the great life they had on the Minnesota prairie. She had died in 1988, and we were able to visit her grave in a small cemetery near Park Rapids. Virgil had died in 1975, and she sold the farm and moved into town.

It was a wonderful experience to meet new family members. I tried to convince them to become Texas Ranger fans and give up on the Minnesota Twins, but I was not successful.

How lucky I was when Mila Mae gave me up for adoption, and Virgil and Maurine picked me out of the nursery of little babies. Mother often said I looked up at them and smiled, but Mom was always a little sentimental.

I know that Mother and Daddy and Mila Mae are looking down and smiling at all of us after this wonderful reunion of brothers and sisters made possible by their unselfish love and generosity.

As for me, I feel truly blessed by my life as an adopted child and to be given the opportunity to meet my brothers and sisters who were so welcoming and excited to know they now have a “new” member of the family.

We are already planning our next trip to Minnesota.

Eaton is a Decatur resident and former owner and publisher of the Wise County Messenger.

6 Responses to “Discovering a new family”

  1. Skip Nichols says:

    Like any great story, this made me laugh and made me cry … Roy is the consummate storyteller. I’m so happy he found his brothers and sisters. I’m even more happy that he became a “Wise County boy” because so many people have been blessed by Roy and Jeannine’s leadership. It is my privilege to call him a friend, mentor and former boss.

  2. Lisa Peyton says:

    What a Beautiful story!

  3. Johnny Ward says:

    A great story!

  4. Joyce Barker says:

    A beautiful story, my husband and I moved to Texas from Brainerd, Mn in 1980, in fact and he was living in Park Rapids when I met him, way back in 1972. So glad you shared it.

  5. says:

    I remember Roy going to Rhome School in the late 40′s and 50′s . I am 2 years younger than roy . I have often wondered where Linda is and how she is doing . Such a great story and happy for roy .

  6. Billmire says:

    Thanks for such a wonderful story Roy. In a world where the news is full of killings, accidents, dirty politics, budgets etc.; it’s sure nice to read something so uplifting and warm and I’m glad for you and your family.

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