Carolyn Hogan said she didn’t expect much when she sat down in front of the computer and typed her long-lost sister’s name in the search bar.
Decades earlier, the 54-year-old Braselton woman heard a rumor her youngest sister — whom she had not seen since the sister was adopted at the age of 2 — had died in a car accident. But to Hogan’s surprise, an ad placed nearly seven years earlier revealed her youngest sister was alive and searching for them.
Hogan and her three younger half sisters were separated after their late mother developed a health condition and could not care for them. Hogan, whose father was dead, went to live with her grandparents. Her younger sister and the second-oldest child, Barbara Bowman, moved in with her father and stepmother.
The youngest two girls who shared the same father, Sue Price and Heidi Pafford, were placed in foster care. The girls were adopted on the same day by different families when they were 2 and 4 years old.
The three oldest girls — Hogan, Bowman and Pafford — were reunited about 20 years ago. Pafford, 44, of Maysville uncovered information about her biological family and found Bowman. The three have maintained a relationship throughout the years but were always curious about what happened to their baby sister.
The sisters said they always believed Price was still alive and one day they’d all meet. Bowman, 50, of Jefferson said she believes the rumor about Price’s death may have been started as a misguided attempt to ease their mother’s feelings of guilt after the adoptions.
Three weeks ago after Hogan discovered the ad, she decided to search Facebook for the woman who might be her sister. She said she felt certain she’d found her when she saw Price’s photo.
When Hogan picked up the phone and called the number on the ad, she said she cried when she heard Price’s voice on the other end. Price said she couldn’t believe she’d been found.
“I was going ‘Is this a joke?’” Price said. “The phone was real staticky at first and I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Then she said ‘Is this (Sue)?’ And I went ‘Is this a joke?’”
Price, 42, of Gainesville said her adoptive parents were always supportive of her search and shared as much information as they could. While she knew she had a sister two years older, she was surprised to learn about two other half sisters.
The women met in person for the first time at an Oakwood restaurant a few days after the phone call.
The women said the first meeting was very emotional as they shared vague memories from childhood.
“I remember when she was taken away,” Pafford said. “I remember asking my (adoptive) dad ‘Why are they taking Suzie away?’ I didn’t understand. Of course, he had no clue how to explain it to a child and he tried the best he could. He told me he tried to tell the social worker ‘You can’t separate them. They’re sisters.’ I think about stuff like that.”
Bowman, the second-oldest girl, said she remembered an aunt knitting pink shawls for the young girls and was stunned to see a photo of Price as a young child wearing the piece. Pafford said she, too, wore a similar shawl though it was lost years ago.
Since the first meeting, the sisters have been in daily contact with one another, asking questions and sharing stories. The sisters said they enjoy comparing photos, features and personalities. Each sister has an interest in music, as their mother did.
Hogan, the oldest, said Price’s resemblance to their mother is remarkable.
The sisters are planning to “take it easy” and introduce Price to their families in a few weeks. For now, the sisters said they’re just happy to finally know each other.
“I always felt like something was missing,” Price said. “For me, I feel completed.”
“I have such an appreciation now,” Pafford said. “I believe in miracles now. All things are possible.”