Finding Family: Adopted Villager Discovers Siblings - The Villages Daily Sun: News

Finding Family: Adopted Villager Discovers Siblings

By Joe Pederson, Daily Sun Senior Writer | Posted: Monday, December 18, 2017 8:00 am

Big families are more fun.

That’s how John Villyard feels, and that’s why he always wanted one.

Instead, he and his twin sister, Anne, were adopted, and the only family they ever knew was their parents.

Until 2016, when Villyard discovered his biological family roots and was surprised by just how grand and expansive the tree is.

Consider the pando — it’s the largest tree on Earth. Go to Utah and you will see what appears to be a forest covering 104 acres. But it’s all the same organism connected by one root system — making it one collective, one family.

In 1951, Villyard’s family told him he was adopted. He was 5 years old.

“It didn’t bother me. My parents were great,” he said. “Although, you always have that feeling of rejection. Why did she leave us? That stays with you forever.”

It wasn’t until 2016 that his curiosity finally was satiated.

Villyard’s goddaughter also was adopted. But she was able to reconnect with her biological parents earlier in 2016. She encouraged Villyard to do the same.

“She kept poking at me, so I went for it,” he said.

In August, he and his wife, Jo, stopped by Denver Public Health Center to reclaim his birth certificate. On the document were the names of his parents: Katherine Chapman and Kenneth Crites.

Villyard went on Ancestry.com and looked for his parents. The results yielded nothing.

It was a setback, but not a roadblock.

He continued to search when a revelation hit. The records were handwritten in 1946. Was it that much of a stretch for the names to have been copied down incorrectly?

Nope.

It wasn’t stretch at all. The last names were swapped.

“Can’t get very far with the wrong information,” Villyard said.

Their names were actually Katherine Crites and Kenneth Chapman.

A message was sent out to possible relatives of Crites, and the first tree in the forest was found.

Pando growth

An interesting note about the pando is when one of its tree trunks dies, the root system sends up new stems and another tree is born into the collective, ensuring its survival. That is how the pando became one of the oldest organisms on Earth.

Tanya Sceirine doesn’t know much about the pando. But she does know Katherine Crites. After all, she is Crites’ second youngest daughter. She lives in Yerington, Nevada. And as far as Sceirine knew, she was one of six siblings.

Five of whom had birthdays in September.

“We used to joke around that Dad must’ve not had a lot to do in December,” Sceirine said.

In September 2016, her only brother died after a fight with lung cancer.

“He was a smoker,” Sceirine said. “He was young. It was hard to say goodbye.”

Two weeks later, her cousin called her with a fascinating message. A man by the name of John Villyard was claiming that his mother was Katherine Crites, and he was looking for relatives.

The possibility of another tree in the forest took some time to sink in for Sceirine.

“I remember thinking, ‘Well, I don’t have a ton of money. Why would someone do this unless they were legit?” she said.

She reached out to Villyard.

“He sent me a photo of himself and his sister, Anne. That’s what confirmed it,” Sceirine said. “Anne is a spitting image of my Aunt Aida. They had to be my mom’s children.”

Sceirine told Villyard that she was his sister, and that his family was about to get a lot larger.

No one has counted how many cousins, siblings and offspring are in Sceirine’s family, but the estimate is about 40 to 50 in four generations.

“I was blown away,” Villyard said. “I never expected to find so much, but I was excited.”

Sceirine exchanged notes with Villyard, and among their exchanges was a picture of their mother.

In 70 years, it was the first image of her Villyard ever had seen.

“She was beautiful,” he said. “It satisfied my curiosity, but my parents are my parents. The ones who raised me. I was happy. Still, it was nice to know where I came from.”

Sceirine’s Aunt Aida shed some light on what may have happened, but much was left to speculation.

Crites had divorced her husband, Chapman. She later was married to a man named Leroy Pummill — the father of Sceirine and her siblings.

However, after leaving Chapman, Crites discovered she was pregnant.

“It was a time you didn’t have children outside of marriage,” Sceirine said. “She must’ve been scared. It must’ve been so hard to give them up. I can’t imagine what it would be like to know I have children out there.”

Becoming a forest

At age 71, Villyard met his sisters.

Earlier this summer, he, Jo and Anne traveled to Nevada to meet them.

“When this all started, we were worried about talking to them,” Jo said. “You never know how people are going to react to news like this. Some people don’t want to meet. But we received such an outpouring of love, it felt like we knew them forever.”

Arriving in Yerington, Villyard met with three of his sisters: Judy, the second oldest, Sceirine, and Karen, the youngest.

Together, they rode in a car for three hours. Their destination was Tracy, California. They were going to see their mother. It is the town where Crites raised her children.

It’s also where she was buried.

Crites died of ovarian cancer when Sceirine was 8 years old. The oldest daughter, Linda, was 16.

“Losing mom was hard,” Sceirine said. “But when she was gone, we all raised each other. We spent a lot of time with grandparents and our aunts and uncles. It’s what made us so close.”

Villyard found the experience at the gravesite to be sobering. But standing with his siblings made it special.

“I knew she wasn’t alive when this all started,” Villyard said. “They loved her and she loved them.”

After, the group went to Sceirine’s son’s house for a barbecue. Villyard met more of his family, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It was a chilly day with the threat of rain. But inside the house, the family had a great time exchanging old stories.

Their was a sister missing from the affair — Rena. She was the third youngest and was battling cancer.

The day after the barbecue, Rena died.

She didn’t get to meet her new siblings but she was made aware of them, and was happy to hear they were meeting her sisters.

“We all grew up close together, and losing any of them is terrible,” Sceirine said. “We were six. Then we were four, but now, we’re six again.”

Despite such a heavy loss, the family was happy Villyard, Jo and Anne made the trip last summer. Future reunions already have been planned. Becoming strangers is not part of those plans.

“We’re excited to have them. I wish we had found them sooner,” Sceirine said. “The more merrier.”