Technology pays off for 'fatherless' woman

Posted: Sunday, October 08, 2000

Framed pictures of family and friends line the walls and dot various areas in Pat Robinson's Kenai home. But the newest photo lies naked on her coffee table while her daughters look for recognizable traits in the subject.

The photo is of Robinson's father, a man she never met.

Her father, Roy Bridges, had eight children. Seven from one marriage and Robinson from another.

Bridges was a longshoreman in the Merchant Marines. He left his first family when the youngest child was 14 months old and married Robinson's mother 11 years later. He then left her when Robinson was an infant.

After Robinson's father left, her mother disposed of almost all the records relating to him.

"My mother told me all these years that he was dead," Robinson said.

So Robinson, 65, was raised as an only child. She said she always felt alone and was not allowed to know about the other family that existed.

She said she longed for a larger family because she did not know her mother's family either.

When Robinson was 6, her mother remarried. When Robinson was 18, she was adopted by her stepfather.

In the years to come, Robinson said, she and her stepfather formed a good relationship. But part of the adoption meant that authorities had to contact her birth father for his consent.

From then on, Robinson said, she wanted to find the father she new was alive, without violating loyalty to her mother.

After her mother and stepfather died, Robinson decided to find what information she could about her father. So without any expectations, she set out on a journey to find the father, the family and the truth she knew was out there.

"I didn't see any harm that I would be doing to anyone," she said.

Her journey began more than four years ago when she tried to contact family without any luck.

Robinson said she could not find her original birth certificate with her father's full name because of her adoption. Without a full name, it is sometimes difficult to track down information about a person.

Robinson had found her original baptismal record when she was going through papers after her stepfather died in 1993. The document contained the name of her birth father.

With this information, her search resumed in September, when she turned to the Internet.

After locating the full name of her father, she was then able to obtain social security information. On Sept. 19, she located the death certificate and then contacted the funeral home that made the arrangements when her father died in 1975.

She then was able to obtain a copy of the obituary, which included the names of the half-brothers and half-sisters she had never met.

Robinson said the information she received was way beyond what she expected. But with names in hand, she could not let the story end there.

"Wow, let's pursue this," she said. "This looks good."

Robinson called upon her daughter, Cindy Sanguinetti, for help because she said by that time she was too nervous to make any calls.

Sanguinetti took charge and started making the calls.

"We never expected a solution that day," she said.

While Robinson and Sanguinetti were excited, Robinson's other daughter, Shelly Peterson, was a bit skeptical at first. But skepticism faded and excitement overwhelmed her when the phone numbers were dialed.

Sanguinetti made the initial call to one of Bridges' sons, discovering he had died two years before. But before hanging up, his widow gave her the phone number of one of the two children still living -- Evelyn, 77, and Mary, 88, both of Virginia.

So Sanguinetti again reached out and called Evelyn Rowe, 77.

After filling Rowe in about why she was calling, Sanguinetti said she kept asking, "Is this a joke?"

When Rowe finally understood who was calling and what it was about, she told Sanguinetti that Bridges' first family knew about Robinson.

Robinson said within two days, her newfound half-sisters e-mailed her two photographs of the father she had never net.

"They have been just unreal, just so welcoming," Robinson said.

The photographs, a close up view of Bridges and a full shot, are both in black and white.

In the past weeks since contacting her half-sisters, she said, they have talked on the phone often, e-mail daily and Robinson and her daughters have made plans to visit Virginia to meet the family.

"It is nice having other people in our lives," Robinson said.

After the contact, both of Robinson's daughters were elated for their mother.

"For my mom, it has been a healing in her life," Peterson said.

Sanguinetti agreed the experience has been good for her mother and said technology made the difference.

"If it hadn't been for the Internet, this would have never happened," she said.

The knowledge of brothers and sisters was not the extent of Robinson's treasure; she also found family health information that she had been wondering about and is very important.

As Robinson finds a new place to put her father's pictures, she said the experience has changed her life.

"I get up in the morning and know I belong somewhere."

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