66 years after her secret adoption, Ontario woman meets sisters
In 1951, Nora Ross travelled to Montreal with a secret: she was pregnant.
Ross lived in a tightknit religious community in Sioux Lookout, Ont., an isolated town more than 1,700 kilometres north of Toronto. She was 19, and keeping the baby wasn’t an option.
She crossed into Quebec, gave birth to the child in Montreal and immediately put the newborn girl up for adoption. Then, she returned home.
Ross eventually married, moved to Winnipeg and had three more daughters. But she never told the girls about their eldest sister. Ross died of cancer in 1981, her secret intact.
But the truth eventually surfaced. About 10 years after Ross’s death, her sister told the three girls -- now adults -- about the existence of their secret sibling. She didn’t have a name or any contact information -- just that she was born in Montreal in November of 1951.
The three sisters began a years-long search for their lost sibling. They tried to access records in Montreal, but they were sealed.
Earlier this year, Gwen Ross-Cieslak, one of the sisters, decided to undergo a DNA test through Ancestry.ca. The results came back that she had an “extremely high” likelihood of close family relation to Lonita Stewart, a woman living in Orangeville, Ont.
Ross-Cieslak and her sister, Lynn Colliou, got in touch with Stewart online. Stewart told Ross-Cieslak that she was born in November 1951 in Montreal, and was adopted. She thought the two might be cousins.
“I just got this feeling through me -- I knew it was her,” Ross-Cieslak told CTV Winnipeg.
“I just wrote back and said, ‘I don’t think you’re my cousin. I’m pretty sure you’re my sister.”
On Tuesday, Stewart – now 66 -- finally met two of her three half-sisters. The three women cried and hugged for the first time at the arrivals gate of the Winnipeg Airport.
Stewart called the reunion “just astonishing.”
“For 66 years, I never realized that anybody was even looking. Because of low self-esteem I thought, ‘Oh, who would bother,” she said.
The sisters say there are no hard feelings over their mother’s decision. They say it must have been awful for her to keep her secret for so long. They agreed that their mother would’ve been happy for them to finally meet.
“It feels like it’s a piece of my mum. And, realistically, it is,” Colliou said.
With files from CTV Winnipeg