BANGOR, Maine — Lynn Martin, of Windham, has a framed collage filled with photographs of her five sisters.
Most of the photos were taken during a family gathering at Martin’s home two summers ago shortly after the six sisters, who were separated as young children, found one another.
However, one space within the frame has no photograph. Instead it contains a place holder — a printout of the lyrics of a Kenny Chesney song titled “Who You’d Be Today.” Though the song is about a loved one who died too soon, excerpts from the lyrics easily apply to the brother she has never met:
“Sunny days seem to hurt the most.
I wear the pain like a heavy coat.
The only thing that gives me hope
Is I know I’ll see you again some day.”
Martin and her sisters Laurie Hutchins, of Rockland, and Debra Bubier, of Chickopee, Mass., are among seven children born in the 1960s and 1970s to a southern Maine woman, the sisters said in recent interviews and e-mails.
The seven children, who today range in age from 34 to 45, have six different biological fathers, none of whom was married to their mother, they said.
Because of abuse and neglect, the five oldest children — four girls and one boy — were surrendered to the state and subsequently adopted, Hutchins and Martin said. The two youngest girls grew up with their birth mother, they said, declining to name their biological mother and three of the sisters out of respect for their desire for privacy.
Now only the location of their brother, who turned 40 on Friday, remains a mystery. Martin and Hutchins hope a year-old law in Maine allowing adoptees access to their birth records will help end their search. If their brother knows he was adopted and is reading this story, they hope he will use the law to check his records, dis-cover his birth identity and contact them.
So far the sisters have worked with private investigators, visited state offices and courthouses, and posted information about their missing brother on virtually every Web site they could find devoted to reuniting adoptees with their birth family members.
“Until I exhaust all my avenues, I can’t be at peace,” Martin said.
“We’ve all had our parts in trying to find him,” Hutchins said. “We can’t find any sort of lead for him whatsoever.”
Through a combination of diligence and a few lucky breaks, the six sisters found one another.
Hutchins, who got the reunion ball rolling, was the first to reach out to her birth sisters. She said their first reunion came about in 2007 with the help of a private investigator, who tapped into certain databases and came up with the information Hutchins needed to locate her sisters. Hutchins found four of them in Maine within a two-hour drive of each other and the fifth, Bubier, in Massachusetts, a three-hour drive away.
Hutchins said that finding Bubier was the result of a little bit of luck. Acting on a hunch, she conducted searches of Bubier’s birth date and found her on a social networking site.
Five of the sisters met at Martin’s home in Windham in 2007, and the next year, all six got together.
“When Laurie found me, it was like we’d never been separated,” Martin said. Though they didn’t grow up together, Martin said, she and her sister have similar voices and personalities. “We’re both very caring and very giving. We both like to help people.”
Hutchins said having sisters in her life was a godsend when she lost her husband to cancer last May.
Their only brother, however, remains elusive.
The sisters also have tapped a trio of Internet “search angels,” volunteers who spend hours every day scouring databases and other resources for clues about what might have become of him. The angels do not charge for their work.
Micky Bohan, an adoptee and Bangor native now living in Sarasota, Fla., Shelagh Delphyne, of Montville, and Priscilla Sharp, a Pennsylvania mother who gave up a daughter for adoption 45 years ago, are volunteer search angels with an Internet group called theregistry@yahoogroups. The three focus their efforts on Maine.
Though she has no ties to Maine, Sharp said this week that she decided to put her skills to work here after the state began allowing adoptees access to their original birth records.
“I thought, ‘Here’s a chance for us to really do some service,’” Sharp said, adding that she’s nearly 65 and partially disabled, which gives her plenty of time to lend a hand.
Sharp said she founded the search angels group after learning that some people were paying as much as $3,500 for information she believes every adoptee has a right to receive for free.
“I was incensed,” said Sharp, who also is a genealogist. “It’s a person’s right to know who they are, where they came from, about their heritage and their medical history.”
Now the sisters are hoping that someone in the Bangor Daily News readership area might have the missing clue they need to be reunited with their brother.
In an e-mail sent to the BDN on Thursday, Bubier wrote, “I am hoping that after this story is out we will find him. It will truly make 2010 the best year ever! … We all have had a piece missing in our lives for 40 years, this may just find that piece and make us whole once more.”
In a post on her Facebook page, Bubier wrote: “My biological sisters and I are searching for our brother. … He has SIX sisters who have already reunited and we would love to have him back.”
What they know
According to information the sisters have come up with, their brother’s birth name was Brian Donald Stevens. He was born on Jan. 8, 1970, at Central Maine General Hospital in Lewiston and briefly placed at the Holbrook Foster Home. His adoption was completed on April 1, 1971, in Bangor, based on documents Martin’s adoptive parents received through a clerical error at the time of her adoption, one week shy of her 10th birthday.
“That’s why we’re focusing the search in Bangor,” said Bohan, the search angel from Sarasota, Fla.
The sisters and the search angels who have been helping them acknowledge that the search for the missing brother is an uphill battle.
They say it’s likely he was given a new name when he was adopted. The family that adopted him might have moved out of the Bangor area. He might not even know he was adopted. He also could be dead, but the sisters are desperately hoping that’s not the case.
Who he’d be today
What would they say if they met him today?
“That we’re here for him and that we haven’t forgotten him,” Hutchins said.
“I’d tell him that I love him,” Martin said softly, tears welling up in her eyes. “I just want to hug him. It’s not like we can replace the last 40 years, but at least we can start fresh, you know. He probably doesn’t even know we exist because the youngest two didn’t even know we existed.”
If you have information that could help the women find their missing brother, contact Martin by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.