Jacksonville, N.C. — Hugs, smiles and tears of joy replaced decades of heartache for two North Carolina sisters who recently reunited after being separated as children more than 54 years ago.
“Oh, finally!” Bonnie Russell said as she embraced her sister, Patricia Rogers. “You look so much like our mother.”
“So do you,” Rogers replied.
Russell, now 61, was one of five children born to Ralph and Wilma Nephew.
Their father was dying of cancer and felt that he couldn't let his wife care for five children on her own. So Bonnie and one brother were adopted by their aunt and uncle and moved out of state.
The youngest sister, Patricia, who was still in diapers, stayed behind.
They never saw each again – until Thursday.
“I just thought I was going to go off somewhere, you know,” Russell said. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions, ones that none of us will ever have (answers for).”
For years, each sister knew the other was out there somewhere. They longed to meet face to face.
Then along came Facebook.
The sisters found each other through the social media site and reconnected. Then they agreed to meet on baby sister Patricia Rogers’ 56th birthday. Rogers, who lives in Arizona, flew to North Carolina to sit on her big sister's sofa in Jacksonville.
"I talked to her on Facebook. I had always known I had a big sister, but..." Rogers said, her voice trailing off as she choked back tears.
"In the flesh, I'm here," her sister said, giving her a squeeze.
“I’m not getting any younger," Russell said. It’s something I’ve always wanted before I passed on was to be complete. And now, I’m complete.”
Their meeting was like a warm welcome home. They spent the night together as a family, with their half-sister, Robin; Bonnie’s son, Lee; and Pat’s fiancé, Bill.
“I knew it would feel great to finally see her and meet her, but I did not know it would feel this great,” Rogers said.
Added Russell: “I know my mother and father are looking down, and they are so happy right now.”