Tales from the Tiers: Mother & daughter reunite after 82 years

By Caroline Goggin

February 1, 2016 Updated Feb 1, 2016 at 7:00 PM EDT

Town of Maine, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It had been 82 years since Lena Pierce had seen her first-born child—but Friday, Jan. 15 offered a reunion for the pair.

At the age of 14-- on Feb.11, 1933-- Pierce gave birth to a little girl in a Utica hospital. She named her Eva May, and cared for her for six months.

“She bathed her, and changed her diapers, and came to love her,” Millie Hawk, one of PIerce’s daughters, said.

After six months together, the state of New York took Eva from Pierce—citing she was unfit for motherhood at such a young age.

“There was a lot of times I worried about her and wondered where she was,” Pierce said.

Eva was eventually adopted, and grew up on Long Island as Betty Morrell—an only child.

"I had imaginary sisters, and I had imaginary brothers,” Morrell said. “And, I had them all named and I would talk to them at night."

At the age of 21, Morrell’s adoptive mother died. Just a few years later, her adoptive father passed away too. Now, on her own, she hoped to search for her birth parents—a search that lasted 50 years.

Meanwhile, Pierce remained in the Twin Tiers. She was married twice—a mother to seven children. But the little girl she gave birth to years before, was always on her mind.

“She was growing up, and I was growing old,” Pierce said.

As she wondered about her first-born, Morrell continued her own search.

"An aunt of mine had one day slipped and said my name was ‘Eva’,” she said. “And I said 'oh.' And she said, 'you know you were born up in Utica?'"

With clues to her past-- Morrell began looking. However, she ran into many obstacles during her search because her adoption was closed.

She began by placing a call to both hospitals in Utica. The first had no record of any births on Feb. 11, 1933. The second hospital had two birth certificates from that day—one of a boy, the other of a girl. The girl’s name was Eva May. Now living in Florida, Morrell was able to convince the hospital to send her the birth certificate.

With the help of her granddaughter, she was also able to search for further clues through ancestry.com. And, finally, she was able to find Millie [one of Pierce's daughter]—linking mother and daughter once again.

"There was no connection. Nothing to tie me to anybody,” Morrell said. “And so, ya know, when it came through, and she was alive, and I had been talking to her on the phone…it was like, it's all gone! My life is complete at this point."

"It seems like it's unbelievable,” Pierce said. “All this time, and now I'm finally going to see her again. I would say it's going to be a beautiful day, when I get to see my daughter."

And it was a beautiful day. With tears in their eyes, the mother and daughter embraced in the lobby of the Greater Binghamton Airport—the first time they held each other in 82 years.

“I’m not alone anymore,” Morrell said. “I have my mother, and I have sisters and brothers. It’s surreal, but so wonderful to be together again after all this time.”

The mother-daughter pair spent the Saturday after the reunion surrounded by family and friends in Hallstead, Pa.—where Pierce now resides in an assisted-living home. Both said after Morrell returns to Florida, the relationship will, of course, continue.

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