Georgia woman to meet 71-year-old son for first time

RINGGOLD, Ga. — An 88-year-old north Georgia woman will be meeting her son for the first time, 71 years after putting him up for adoption.

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Jean Bell Stapp, of Ringgold, will meet her son, Patrick Sherman, in September, WRCB reported. The reunion was made possible thanks to DNA submitted by Stapp’s granddaughter to Ancestry.com.

Stapp became pregnant as a 16-year-old and traveled to Washington state with her mother to have the child, WRCB reported. Her father was a preacher, and Stapp said her parents made her give up the child for adoption, the television station reported. She was also sworn to secrecy.

“My mother was so strict, and she didn’t want anybody to look down on our family, so we had to go somewhere else to have the baby,” Stapp told WRCB.

Stapp, her mother, Sadie Bell, and a family friend went to Seattle, and she gave birth on March 17, 1950, according to Washington state online birth records. After giving birth, Stapp returned to Ringgold.

“After I had it, I wasn’t allowed to see him,” Stapp told WRCB. “People was there to take him. As soon as he was born, they took him.”

Stapp never told anyone about the baby -- not even her husband of 51 years, James Robert Stapp, who died in 2013.

Fast forward 70 years.

Jean Stapp’s granddaughter, Donna Afman, submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com in December, WRCB reported. The results came back in March and revealed she had a close relative she had never heard of.

That turned out to be Sherman. The two began messaging, and Afman realized Sherman might be her grandmother’s son.

The mother listed on Sherman’s birth certificate was Jane Doe Bell, WRCB reported. Afman realized that her grandmother’s maiden name is Bell, so she called to ask if she had another son.

“She kind of (went) ‘Hmmm, uh, uh,’ I got a lot of that for a little bit,” Afman told the television station.

Stapp finally told her granddaughter the story, and now she feels like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.

Sherman, meanwhile, joined Ancestry.com five years ago to try and connect with his birth mother, WRCB reported.

“Hope kind of died down, (we) didn’t really think anything would come out of it,” Adawna Ruthart, Sherman’s oldest daughter, told the television station.

The breakthrough came in March. Afman spoke with Sherman and arranged for her grandmother to speak with him.

“I kept telling Donna, ‘What am I going to say? What am I going to say when he calls?” Stapp told WRCB.

“He was so nervous. It was the sweetest, sweetest thing,” Ruthart told the television station. “I had not seen him that happy I don’t think ever.”

The reunion will finally happen. Sherman is flying into Chattanooga, Tennessee, this weekend to meet his mother for the first time.

Stapp’s three other children will be there to meet their long-lost sibling. Sherman, meanwhile, has four children. His family told WRCB that he will bring his family to north Georgia in September, the television station reported.