Lifelong Friends End Up Discovering That There’s a Lot More to the Story

As the old saying goes, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Or so we thought. This is a true story of two men from Hawaii, Walter, and Alan (aka Robi), who grew up together as friends. Or so they thought. The two were born 15 months apart in Hawaii during World War II. One of the boys was raised by his grandmother, who he thought was his mother, and the other boy was adopted right after birth.

Lifelong friends Alan Robinson (left) and Walter Macfarlane hugged together.
Lifelong friends Alan Robinson (left) and Walter Macfarlane. Source: Pinterest

While each of them grew up in loving and supportive homes, something still ate away at them. Each one was always curious about who their parents were. Walter never knew his father, and Robi didn’t know either of his birth parents. Then came along the wonderful technology of DNA tests. And with that, their story just began…

Instant Best Friends

About 60 years ago, Walter MacFarlane and Alan Robinson (who everyone calls Robi) met in the 6th grade. The two young boys who lived down the road from each other in Honolulu, Hawaii, went to the same school called Punahou Elementary (which was also Barack Obama’s alma mater). From the minute they met, the boys were instant best friends and did absolutely everything together.

Walter Macfarlane left, and Alan Robinson met in sixth grade.
Walter Macfarlane, left, and Alan Robinson. Source: CNN

Walter and Robi shared the same interests. They both played on their high school football team, loved playing games together, like cribbage, and enjoyed being outdoors and exploring more than anything else. Yet the activities they did together weren’t the only things two boys had in common. Walter and Robi also bonded over the fact that neither one knew much about where they came from.

More in Common Than Just Interests

The boys would speak about their parents and swap stories. Walter said how he never knew his father, and Robi told him how he never knew either of his biological parents because he was adopted when he was just a baby. Robi was 15 months younger than Walter, but such an age difference wasn’t a big deal, definitely not for these two buddies.

Photo of Walter (left) and Alan when they played high school football together.
Source: CNN

The two were inseparable. As Alan and Walter got older, people would often joke around and tease them, saying they spent so much time together that they started to actually look alike! “There were times when I did think, I look like Robi a little bit,” Walter said about their resemblance. But the boys who finished each other’s sentences never gave it much thought.

Just a Coincidence?

The boy just figured that their resemblance and all the commonalities they shared were mere coincidence. As time passed, Robi and Walter remained best friends, even though their interests started to change. “He was the party-er, I never went to or did any partying in high school,” said Walter, who became an athlete out of Punahou and later inducted into the Buffanblu Hall of Champions.

Walter and Robi shaking hands and smiling.
Source: CNN

Robi, on the other hand, wasn’t so talented when it came to sports. He was, however, talented in his own right. He went on to become a pilot for Aloha Airlines. Whatever happened in their lives, Robi and Walter stayed best of friends for more than six decades. Little did they know what would eventually be revealed…

Never-Ending Curiosity

Robi and Walter grew older and had their own families. Their kids even knew them as Uncle Robi and Uncle Alan. They also sent their kids to the same school they went to and vacationed together as families. Walter loved his friends and family, but he was forever curious about the father he never met.

Walter and Robi in the kitchen.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

He always wanted to know if he had other family members somewhere in the world. Retired math and physical education teacher, Walter knew that his family tree was going to be complicated. What he did know was that his mother was young and unmarried when she gave birth to him during the Second World War. And that’s why she couldn’t raise him on her own.

Never Told Who His Father Was

So his mother’s family pretended that his grandmother was actually his mother, and throughout his childhood, the girl he thought was his sister was actually his mother. Walter didn’t find out the truth until he graduated from high school. Even at that point, his mother still never told him (nor anyone else for that matter) who his father was.

The brothers shot a selfie at one of their many lunches together.
Source: CNN

And with that, Walter always wanted to find out who that man was. Who was the man that got his mother pregnant at such a young age; the man who he shared genes with; a man who could be anywhere in the world for all he knows. And the way Walter was eventually able to learn of his father was by accident.

Who is Robby737?

It came about by accident. For one of Walter’s birthday in 2016, when commercial DNA-testing kits were just starting to take off, Walter’s daughter, Cindy, suggested he try it out. Why not, right? Walter agreed and sent in a DNA sample, letting his children help him figure out the results. Well, when Cindy logged on to to check the results, she saw something exciting.

Alan and Walter look happy together.
Source: CNN

She saw that a user named “Robby737” and her father shared enough DNA to be half-brothers. “So then we started digging into all the matches he started getting,” Cindy said. Cindy asked her parents if they knew anyone who could potentially have that username, and her mother immediately thought of Uncle Alan, whose nickname was Robi.

His Half-Brother All This Time

One of the top matches on the site was this Robby737, a man who shared several matches in their DNA and had identical X chromosomes. All of this meant that Walter had a half-brother that he never even knew about. And when Walter and his daughter saw the username, they were both stunned.

Brothers Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson.
Source: CNN

Not only was Alan known as Robi, but he also used to fly 737s for Aloha Airlines. In Walter’s mind, his thoughts were racing. Could it be? He spent ten minutes trying to get his buddy Robi on the phone. When he finally answered, he got the confirmation. Robi told Walter that his username on the site was indeed Robby737. Walter and Cindy didn’t know at the time that Robi had previously turned to

Robi’s Search Was Unsuccessful

Robi told Walter and his daughter that he had already turned to to find out who his own parents were. “I had a younger brother that I lost when he was 19, so I never had nieces or nephews. I thought I’ll never know my birth mother; I’ll never have any nieces or nephews,” Robi said. But he wasn’t able to find any matches in his search.

Brothers Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson in Hawaii.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

Walter then explained to Robi that he, too, went on the site in search of his family background. He told him how the site had matched them and found that they shared identical X chromosomes, which meant that they were half-brothers. Among the most exciting news was that they shared the same birth mother!

Their Hairy Arms Made it Real

“It was a shock,” Walter said after discovering that his longtime friend was actually his half-brother. The men immediately met up to discuss this crazy news. And when they looked down at their arms, standing side by side, they knew it was true. “Yea, it was a shock, definitely, and then we thought about it and compared forearms,” Robi said.

Brothers Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson, during an interview with Steve TV Show.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

“Yea, hairy arms, that did it!” Walter added. “I knew it when we compared hairy forearms!”

“That’s true. How did we go for 60 years without knowing we were related?” Robi said. “It took those DNA tests and some really good sleuthing by our families to put it all together.”

“It did feel natural,” Walter added. “We knew each other so well.”

He Thought He Was Joking

Walter said how he was trying to act cool, “But I’m so excited inside, I’m gonna burst out. I think I said, ‘Oh, I think we’re brothers,’ in just a casual manner.” Robi’s reaction: “Yeah, sure. OK, Walter.” “I was in denial,” Robi said. “We’ve known each other for so long; I thought he was just joking around.”

Walter Macfarlane in an interview for Steve TV Show.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

“If I wasn’t in that database, this never would have happened,” Robi said. “It was meant to happen.” Even though it was hard for them to really believe it, Robi knew it was possible. He was adopted as a baby by a couple named Norma and Lawrence Robinson. He knew that his birth parents were out there somewhere. And now he and his best friend could search for their mother together.

Always a Big Brother

After the shock wore off, Walter and Robi went over their childhood together. “It was so funny because you know when we played for Punahou, we were both first string, and we’re brothers, playing side by side. He’s the tackle, I’m the end, and we never knew you know,” Walter said. Even though they were already best friends, Robi realized that Walter often acted as his big brother when they were young.

Alan Robinson in an interview for Steve TV Show.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

“This guy was, he was like an older brother all along,” Robi said of Walter as they reminisced about their childhood. “You know we’d go to Punaluu go skin-diving, I’d be making noise in the water splashing around, he’d be teaching me how to do it right. He’d always come out of the water with the biggest string of fish, and I had the smallest,” Robby said. “As it should be, you’re my younger brother,” Walter added.

Born in the Days of War

Neither brother knows why nobody ever told them that they were related, but they just figured that it was because of the social norms of that era. Not to mention the turbulent times surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor and the whole war, which was still in full force when both men were born. Walter Macfarlane was born in Honolulu in 1943.

Walter and Alan when they played in a football team.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

Still wobbling from the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the city in the early 40s was an unstable town, full of air raids, blackouts, and military personnel. Walter’s mother, Genevieve, was planning to give him up for adoption. But when her parents found out, they decided “to hanai,” their grandson, which was a Hawaiian practice in which a family can adopt a person informally, with or without official papers.

It Was in the Cards

Fifteen months after Walter’s birth, Alan Robinson was born in Honolulu. This time, the baby was immediately given up for adoption. According to Robi, it was great. “I was raised by the best people you can imagine. But when I had my own two children, I did wonder about family history because I can never answer any health questions on official forms.”

Brothers Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson.

Amazingly, his adoptive parents lived so close to Walter’s family, hence the boys having grown up together. It looks as though fate was in working order. Even though their mother didn’t raise either of them, it was meant to be that these two boys would grow up together. It was just in the cards. But apparently, one person didn’t want that to happen… their mother.

The Same Initials

Walter was aware that his birth mother’s name was Genevieve K. Paikuli, but Robi’s birth certificate has his mother as Geraldine K. Parker. The fact that her initials in the name listed were identical led the men to believe that Genevieve must have used a pseudonym when she gave baby Alan (Robi) up for adoption. Robi has his own theory as to why he wasn’t told about his birth parents.

Brothers Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson.

He believes that his adoptive parents, the Robinsons, knew that Genevieve was his birth mother, and they didn’t tell him out of respect for her wishes. Either way, “We don’t know what transpired, but [we have] no bad feelings,” Walter said later. “At that time, you had your own reasons why you did what you did.”

Even More Siblings

Thanks to their DNA test results and research done by Cindy, the two friends also learned who their fathers were. As it turns out, both of the men were in the military from mainland America who had been stationed in Hawaii. That discovery led to even more revelations. Walter found out that he has even more siblings that he wasn’t aware of.

Walter Macfarlane photographed with his family.
Source: Facebook, Walter Macfarlane.

Walter learned that he has four more half-brothers and traveled to California to meet them all in person. Robi also found out that he has two half-sisters and a half-brother, who plan on coming to visit him over the holiday season. “It’s mind-boggling,” as Walter put it.

So whatever happened to their mother, Genevieve?

Making Up For Lost Time

Walter and Robi just wanted to make up for the lost time. As close as they had been, they had fallen out of touch a bit after high school. While they did reconnect from time to time, they still didn’t see much of each other because they were dads who worked, and they busy raising their kids! “If we had known sooner we were brothers, we would have been contacting each other all the time,” Walter says.

Brothers Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson, during an interview with Steve TV Show.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

In terms of their shared mother, Walter said this: “Our mother lived to be 92. We have a few more years, hopefully. We have good genes.” His daughter, Cindy, said how “It was a crazy time, and we have no idea what must have led to her decisions. We still hold her in the highest regard and understand that the actions and decisions she had to make back then were for the best.”

Fond Memories

Cindy recalls the moment they realized that they were brothers. “We are on the edge of our seats, and he calls back and tells my dad, ‘Yeah, that’s me!'” remembers Macfarlane-Flores with excitement. “I guess they were both trying to play it cool, but my dad was crying.” Cindy also remembers how they grew up with “Uncle Alan.”

Walter and Robi with their family in Hawaii.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

“I grew up calling him Uncle Alan. Uncle Alan was my brother’s idol growing up because he was an amazing pilot. I have a few pictures of us on his sailboat at 9 and 10, and his daughter Tara was about 4. When my brother Aldon and I were kids, they hung out a ton.”

Cindy was already a part of the search, but they still had to tell the rest of the family the big news…

Telling the Family

The brothers made a decision to announce the surprise to their extended family at a party on December 23. Why that day? Because it was a celebration that had already been set up to honor Walter’s daughter, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, who holds the women’s flyweight world champion title for Bellator Mixed Martial Arts.

Robinson, left, with MMA Flyweight World Champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and his brother.
Source: CNN

So just before Christmas, Walter and Robi gathered both of their families and friends together and told them all about the incredible news. “This is the best Christmas present I could ever imagine having,” Robi said. “It really is a Christmas miracle, and we’re just so happy that we found it,” Walter then added.

“Normally I don’t cry easily, but I broke down in front of everyone, the emotions were so strong,” Walter said. “It was such an overwhelming experience. The family was so warm and nurturing and accepting.”

Good Times to Come

“If you could pick a family, I think he would have picked the MacFarlanes as a family,” said Eva Robinson, Robi’s wife. “That’s how much we liked them. Our children are all Facebook friends, and it’s so wonderful to see the relationships growing. You can tell the families are intertwined now.” Both of them still live in Honolulu, about five miles apart from each other, just like when they were children.

Walter and Robi with their family in Hawjoaii.
Source: Youtube, Steve TV Show

They talk on the phone and go to lunch regularly. They’re even planning on taking a cruise together. “We’re going to Las Vegas to spend a week with classmates, and then a golf tournament with teammates, and who knows, maybe even a cruise!” Walter commented.

Thanks to recent DNA testing, stories like this have been popping up here and there. This is another noteworthy story of how a test brought long-lost family members together.

Bittersweet Sixteen

When Joanne Loewenstern was 16, she was told that she was adopted. Until then, she just always thought that her adoptive parents were her birth parents. But her sweet 16 turned out to be a little more bitter than sweet. She was given the hard truth – that she was given up for adoption when she was a child.

Joanne photographed with her birth mother, Lillian

She found out that her birth mother was a woman named Lillian Feinsilver. She was told that Lillian had died days after giving birth to her at the Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Feeling not only betrayed for being lied to, and confused as to her identity, Joanne spent many of her teenage nights crying. She kept wondering what her birth mother was like and what it would have been like to meet her.

Nagging at Her for Years

While she was clearly upset about not knowing her mother, something in her gut told her that what she was told about her real mother wasn’t true. She knew there was more to the story than what she was told. These doubts nagged Joanne for years to come, even well into her later years. By 2017, when Joanne was already 79 years old, she decided to try something.

Joanne’s birth mother, Lillian.

Shelley, Joanne’s daughter-in-law, would see the emotional turmoil that her mother in law was experiencing. She suggested to Joanne that she had the option of taking a DNA test to find out who her parents were. Even if her mother did indeed pass away, she could still learn something about her family, which could give her some closure.

Getting a Match

Joanne agreed to take the test, with the help of Shelley. About a year later, Shelley received a message on from someone named Sam Ciminieri. It turns out that Sam also received a genetic report that indicated him as a match with Joanne. Shelley immediately responded to Sam, asking if he knew a Lillian Feinsilver.

Joanne and her birth mother, Lillian, enjoy coloring together.

And guess what? Sam said yes, he did know a woman by that name. And that woman was his mother. As you can imagine, Shelley was dumbfounded. This whole time, she and everyone else in the family was under the impression that Lillian had died nearly 80 years ago. Amazingly, Lillian was still alive. Not only was she alive, but she was 100 years old!

A Whole Other Family

You would think that was shocking enough, but there were more surprises to come. Sam told Shelley that his mother, Lillian, lived in Florida, in an assisted-living facility in Port St. Lucie. Joanne was living in Boca Raton, less than 80 miles down the interstate. “As it turns out,” Joanne’s son, Elliot, told the Washington Post, “we have a whole other family we never would have discovered.”

Joanne sits next to her birth mother, Lillian.

Shelley quickly picked up the phone to call her mother in law and tell her all about the news she just heard. Joanne was also in shock and knew that they had to act fast. A woman who already lived a century doesn’t have too much time left on this earth.

The Surreal Reunion

The families planned a reunion at the facility where Lillian was living. Within a month, Joanne found herself sitting across the table from the mother she had been searching for her entire life. The moment, if anything, was surreal. Elliot, Sam, Shelley, and Joanne’s grandson looked at them while they met for the first time ever, after close to 80 years.

Joanne photographed with her birth mother, Lillian.

Sadly, however, Lillian suffers from dementia and uses a wheelchair, so she was ultimately silent. She was unresponsive and didn’t react to Joanne in a way that she may have imagined in her mind before their reunion. “I don’t know if she recognizes me,” Joanne said.

Nevertheless, and regardless of her silence, Joanne knew that a soul was in there. And she was listening…

“This is My Daughter”

Joanne told her mother about her life. She told her that she was adopted in 1938 and that she grew up thinking Lillian passed away at birth. Sadly, as Joanne was pouring her heart out to the mother, she never knew, she got no response. Joanne started to cry. But for some reason, as Joanne was crying, Lillian started to perk up.

A letter written by Joanne to her mother.

It was as though she started to understand what was going on. Joanne gained some momentum after that and excitedly told Lillian about her children and grandchildren. That’s when Lillian smiled. It was at that moment that Joanne got to her the words she had wanted to hear for over 60 years now. Her mother suddenly said: “This is my daughter.”

If you’re not crying right now, then you must be a robot.

The Tragic Truth

Anyways, the Loewensterns learned some things during that emotional reunion at the senior’s home. They discovered that over the years, Lillian had told her family over and over again that she “lost her daughter.” Apparently, everyone, including Lillian, assumed that her baby had died. So it looks like both mother and daughter lived their lives thinking the other one had died.

Joanne and her birth mother, Lillian, enjoy coloring together when Joanne comes to visit.

Joanne’s family figured that since Lillian was unmarried when she gave birth to Joanne, that the baby was seen as illegitimate and had been taken away and put up for adoption. As tragic as their story may be, the point is that eventually, they found each other. None of the past mattered anymore, as they needed to focus on the time they had left.

It’s Never Too Late

After such a touching reunion, the mother and daughter spent the rest of that afternoon together, making art and coloring with colored pencils, which just so happens to be a favorite hobby of each of theirs. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree now, does it? That afternoon was only the beginning.

Joanne and her birth mother, Lillian, enjoy coloring together. When Joanne comes to visit.

Joanne came to visit Lillian again three days later, and this time, Lillian quickly remembered who she was. Two elderly women now see each other every few weeks. They spend their time coloring, playing games, and simply enjoying the time they have together. “I’m proud,” Joanne told WPTV. “This is something I wanted to do all my life.”

The heartwarming stories don’t end there…

A Royal Revelation

Jay Speights, a pastor from Rockville, Maryland, is a descendant of slaves, and so had struggled to find any written documentation of his family’s history. He spent years searching, as his father had before him. But with today’s DNA tests, Jay’s efforts paid off. He was 64 before a DNA test resulted in finding a solid lead.

Photo of Jay Speights.
Source: Facebook, Jay Speights

The pastor learned that 30% of his DNA was actually from Benin, a country in the west of Nigeria, Africa. A place that Jay knew absolutely nothing about. All of this news came as a shock to Jay. His friend urged him to turn to a database called GED Match, which connected African Americans and their African relatives. He would also be able to learn more about his link to Benin.

Divine Intervention

After uploading his data to the site, Jay found a DNA match. The website listed a man by the name of Houanlokonon, Deka. Deka was said to be a distant cousin. And next to the listing were the words “Royal DNA.” Beninese royalty? Jay started at the screen, stunned. He didn’t even know what he should do next. Or if anyone would even believe him!

Jay Speights holding a shirt with the caption: ”Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”

A few months after Jay learned of his royal lineage, fate (or even divine intervention) kicked in. At the New Seminary in New York, Jay met the leader of the West African religion called Vodun, who had traveled from his home country of none other than Benin. It was a sign!

Calling the King

“I mean, how could that possibly happen?” Jay said. “After all these years of going through my father’s search, going through files, it just fell in my lap. That’s the hand of God.” Jay had told the leader and his group about his unusual story. Then one of the Beninese men immediately replied, “I know your king. Here is his number.” Those were his actual words.

Jay Speights in Africa.

When Jay called King Kpodegbe Toyi Djigla, the ruler of the kingdom of Allada in southern Benin, the king actually hung up. But Jay wasn’t about to be defeated by this point. He called a second time, and this time, the king handed the phone to his English-speaking wife, Queen Djehami Kpodegbe Kwin-Epo.

Dear Prince

That’s when Jay and the Queen had a conversation. Jay started to communicate with her online, as it was just a lot easier. She told him that he was a descendant of King Deka, who had once ruled Allada centuries before. “We would be delighted to welcome you to your home, dear prince,” is what she wrote.

King of Allada in central, with the Queen and Jay Speights.

Now, who could say no to meeting royalty? And so off, Jay went. On January 6, 2019, on the day of his late father’s birthday, he landed in Benin. The country’s official language is French, so he was greeted with French posters, saying: “Welcome to the kingdom of Allada, land of your ancestors.” To Jay’s surprise, at least 300 people were waiting for him outside the airport.

The Prince From America

In traditional Beninese fashion, they danced, sang, and played instruments to celebrate the return of the long-lost prince. The prince from America. Accompanied by a parade, the Queen picked Jay up from the airport and introduced him to the local VIPs. She also showed him some historical sites. When they got to the palace, they were met with an audience.

Jay Speights being enthroned as Dah Videkon Deka, by His Majesty Kpodegbe Toyi Djigla of Allada.
Source: Facebook, Jay Speights

An audience fit for a king if you will. At least 1,000 people were waiting for the new arrival. Jay was understandably overcome with emotion. For a man who never knew his history, to be suddenly welcomed into a royal family was more than anything he could ever have imagined. The word “emotional” would be an understatement.

Like a Dream Come True

“I started looking at faces and features. I’m looking for a physical connection to our DNA. Just taking it in,” Jay said. “You’re kind of almost dazed because you find yourself in a situation that most African Americans really believe you can never step into, that can never happen, and that’s to find the part of your DNA that comes from Africa.”

Jay Speights holds a crown that was given to him as a prince.
Photo by Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post

It took him a moment to compose himself and get out of the car, but once he did, people cheered and chanted his name. It was basically like a dream. He smiled and waved, as a prince would, while walking through the crowd. Jay had an interpreter with him, who helped him understand everything that was being told to him.

Still a Mystery

In the royal throne room, the king welcomed Jay, and they spoke through their interpreters. Later that night, Jay got to participate in a ritual that involved his ancestors, accepting him into the family. Yet how Jay’s royal ancestors came to America from Africa still remained a mystery. What Jay did learn was that Benin used to be one of West Africa’s biggest slave ports.

Jay Speights holds a panther that was a gift from the king.
Photo by Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post

African royalty had sold war captives into slavery, and sometimes, royal family members were allowed to travel with European merchants to “The New World,” a place where they would usually be sold to slave owners. Jay’s Beninese relatives told him that the family of Allada wouldn’t have sold their own people into slavery, but they still couldn’t tell him how his ancestors ended up on a slave ship.

A Larger Narrative

Jay is still grappling with the fact that he is a descendant of slaves and people who led others into slavery. But it doesn’t keep him from embracing his new Beninese heritage. “I’ve stepped into my identity,” he said. “I can point to a place on the map and say, ‘The Speights family comes from here, right here.’ We’re a royal family. We have a history. We’re tied into a much larger narrative.”

Jay Speights wearing his ‘Prince’ clothes.
Source: Photo by Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post

Jay even deepened his connection to his homeland. Once he returned to Maryland, Jay looked for ways to bring clean water to the village around Allada and to promote the kingdom while he is in the United States. Jay is now partnering up with the Rotary Club of Alexandria West in Virginia to raise money to build wells in the village. He also serves as an ambassador, searching for others who have DNA from Allada and introducing them to their ancestral home.

One more story for the road…

Lost and Found

Mikalin Watson-Cheesman is proud of her first name. Mikalin is short for Mika Linette, a combination of two important parts of her identity. Mika is the name she chose for herself as an adult, and Linette is the name her birth parents gave her – a name she didn’t know until she was 46. Mikalin was separated from her mother on September 24, 1975.

Mikalin Watson-Cheesman hugging one of her family members in the reunion (L), Mikalin Watson-Cheesman looks happy (R).
Source: Youtube, Inside Edition

She was just four years old when she and her mother were going through Penn Station in New York City. Mikalin remembers her mother being nervous, frequently stopping to rummage through her purse. Mikalin saw a candy store and asked her mother if she could go in. She thought her mother said okay and so she started browsing the candy aisles.

The Silent Girl

“The guy behind the counter asked if I wanted candy,” Mikalin said. “I said, ‘I’ll go ask my mom,’ and she was gone.” A police officer then found the girl wandering around the train station all by herself. When he asked her where her mother went, she shrugged. Apparently, Mikalin wouldn’t speak to anyone.

Mika walking on the street.
Source: Youtube, Inside Edition

It wasn’t long before she was placed in a Catholic orphanage. There, the nuns gave her the name Missy, as the little girl wouldn’t talk and tell them her name. The case eventually hit the newsstands when the New York Post wrote an article on her, asking, “Where is Missy’s mother?” But no one answered. Two years later, when Mikalin was six, she was adopted, and her new family named her Michelle.

Looking For Her Mother

Once she graduated high school, she changed her legal name to Mika and traveled the country. She got married twice and divorced twice, raising five kids on the way. Meanwhile, she tried to find her birth parents. In 2001, desperate for information, she turned to a genealogy website. She posted that she had been left at Penn Station and was looking for her birth mother.

Mika, near the computer, visiting a site that helps to reunite with lost family members.
Source: Youtube, Inside Edition

Lynn-Marie Carty, the founder of and a Florida-based private investigator, saw the message and sent Mika her phone number. “I called her up, and she said, ‘I wanna help you. Don’t worry about sending me any money or anything. I’m just going to help you,’” Mikalin recalled. It took her 16 years to finally get somewhere.

Finding a Match

In December 2017, Carty sent Mika a DNA test as a Christmas gift. After running the results through the databases, Mika was found to be a match with a woman named Kelly Warren, listed as a cousin. Carty contacted Kelly, who was initially skeptical of the story but agreed to help. Kelly remembered that her uncle Richard Smith lost his daughter many years ago.

Mika’s family waiting for the reunion.
Source: Youtube, Inside Edition

She called Smith to ask if he might know who this woman named Mika. After hearing the story, Richard gasped. “Oh my God,” he exclaimed. “Linette is alive!” Mikalin was born on June 30, 1971, as Linette Smith. Her mother, Barbara Wright, was 26 when Mikalin wandered off. When Barbara came home alone that day, she told her family that her daughter had fallen from a building and died. Her family actually doubted that story and searched for Linette in orphanages and hospitals near her New Jersey home, but without success.

Reuniting With the Family

Barbara was later admitted to a mental institution. Once discharged, she could no longer live by herself and struggled her whole life with mental illnesses. She was living in Delaware, where a niece cared for her. So Carty arranged for Mikalin to fly from Washington State to Florida to meet her long-lost family: an older half-sister, Vivian Jackson, and her mother’s brother, Reverend Joseph Wright.

Reverend Joseph Wright with his niece, Mika.

“Bless your heart,” he told her. “You look like your mama. I want to first say we humbly apologize for not protecting you. I hope you forgive us.” Mikalin just nodded, smiling through tears. Then Carty called Mikalin’s father, who lived in Pennsylvania and receives dialysis three times a week. when they reunited, he told his daughter that he had been heartbroken to hear of her death, “but now that I know you are alive, I’m so happy.” Mikalin talks to Richard as often as she can now.

It’s More Complicated with Her Mother

Mikalin talked on the phone with Barbara, but she didn’t seem to understand who she was talking to. “She’s overwhelmed,” her caretaker said. A couple of months later, Mikalin flew to Delaware for another family reunion, but despite prompting from her relatives, Barbara didn’t talk very much. “Maybe it’s that feeling of, she abandoned me again, when I was just right there,” Mikalin says.

Mikalin (center) hugs her half-sister Vivian as her uncle Joseph watches their reunion.
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At the end of the day, Mikalin isn’t angry with her mother. She’s just happy to finally know the truth; “to know that there are people I look like, and where my roots and ancestors come from.” The next big step for her is to get her name legally changed from Michelle to Mika Linette.