Siblings reunite after lifetime of separation
LISBON- For years Dean Varner and two of his sisters drove the same roads and went to the same places, but had never met until this year.
Varner, originally born as Gerald T. Ipe, didn’t give it much thought that he could have other siblings, although the question did briefly cross his mind now and then.
“You see on TV generations (of family) that haven’t seen each other. In the back of my mind I wondered, do I have any out there?” he said.
That question also burned in the back of his daughter-in-law’s mind, who began searching online after first getting his permission. Since she had his birth certificate and adoption papers it only took her a matter of minutes to find one of his sisters on Ancestry.com.
Donna Jackson became an Ancestry.com member in 2003, a year after their mother Catherine Fryman passed away.
“My sister and I made the decision that we were going to try to find him, whether or not anything happened, we were at least going to give it a try,” she said of her half-sister Judi Golden.
Jackson now lives in Kentucky but Golden still lives in East Liverpool, where she and Dean Varner and their eldest brother Petey were born.
The family is still looking for Petey, born as Ralph William Ipe in 1945.
For 25 years Golden worked for the Columbiana County Community Action Agency in Lisbon, all the while Dean Varner was living in Lisbon.
“We were at the same places and he only lived 20 miles away from me so I passed him on the highway,” she said.
She also made comments to a co-worker over the years, “Maybe that’s my brother,” any time she would see certain people.
Meanwhile, Jackson posted an advertisement on the Ancestry.com adoption board, saying she and her sister were looking for two brothers, not knowing that Dean’s twin brother Lawrence had passed away as an infant.
She almost missed finding Dean, known as “Jerry” to her and her sister, because she didn’t know who Leanne Varner was.
“I received a friend request on Facebook from his daughter-in-law and we didn’t have anybody in common so I just ignored it, then about a week later I was checking my email, and she had sent an email,” Jackson said.
In the email Leanne Varner provided Dean’s information, including his date of birth, and from there Jackson knew it was who she had been searching for.
“I knew this was in fact somebody for real. She actually located us her first day looking,” Jackson said.
Now in his late 60s, Dean Varner was only six months old when their mother decided to put him up for adoption. Golden was adopted out to her stepfather’s sister when she was nine years old.
“I have been looking for him forever,” Golden said.
She and Jackson met Dean for the first time at his home in Lisbon on Good Friday this year.
“When we first met Jerry, him and I clung to each other for a good 5 or 10 minutes. It felt right, it felt like family. There was no 60-years difference, it was just like we had been together yesterday,” Golden said.
Jackson and Dean agreed the long-overdue reunion just felt natural.
“When we met it was like there was no lost years there was no fear. Those adoption board registries do work,” Jackson said.
The family, including some of their other siblings, will be getting together again for the Fourth of July holiday, and are in frequent contact.
Ironically, although being apart for six decades, the similarities between the group are shocking. Golden and Dean Varner both have two sons, with the youngest named Michael, and both Michaels have attended truck driving school.
Like Dean, Jackson also has a twin brother, Donald, who will be meeting Dean for the first time next month.