Minka Disbrow always wondered what happened to the little girl she gave up for adoption. Named Betty Jane, she was born from a cruel act, though Disbrow never harbored any resentment towards her - just longing.
On a summer day in 1928, Disbrow and her friend Elizabeth were picnicking, when they were jumped and raped by three men.
We didn't know what to do. We didn't know what to say. So when we went back, nothing was said, Disbrow told the Associated Press.
Once it became clear that she was pregnant, her mother and stepfather sent her to a Lutheran home for pregnant girls, where, at the age of 17, she gave birth to a baby girl. And though she thought briefly about keeping her, her heart, and her mother, told her she couldn't.
I loved that baby so much. I wanted what was best, Disbrow told the AP. And agency told Disbrow that they found a couple, a pastor and a wife, who wanted to adopt a child, and she hoped they could give Betty Jane the life she couldn't herself. Though they never met, they kept in touch through letters, until the agency had a management change, and they lost touch.
Disbrow (seemingly) moved on, though she always kept a picture of Betty Jane wrapped in blankets. She married a fruit salesman and had two children. She worked a variety of jobs. But she never forgot about Betty Jane.
Five years ago, Disbrow, who now lives in San Clemente, Calif., said she prayed that she'd find Betty Jane again. Lord, if you would just let me see her, Disbrow remembers praying. I promise you I will never bother her. Then a man from Alabama called and started asking some personal questions of the then-94 Minka Disbrow. Disbrow was initially wary that the man was trying to steal her identity, until he asked if she'd like to speak to Betty Jane.
Betty Jane, now Ruth Lee, was raised by a Norwegian pastor and his wife. She had six children, including the man who called and astronaut Mark Lee. Lee knew his mother was adopted, and decided to start looking for her biological parents after she realized she did not know her family medical history.
A month later, Ruth and her husband Brian were at Disbrow's doorstep. They immediately had a rapport. It was just like we had never parted, Disbrow told the AP. Like you were with the family all your life.
Since then, they have cultivated a relationship together, and have met several times, and are planning on celebrating Disbrow's recent 100th birthday together. Ruth Lee said that she still cannot believe it. It has been such a surreal, amazing experience that I still think sometimes that I will wake up and it will just be a beautiful dream.