By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey T. Moore is celebrating Thanksgiving today with his mother in Buffalo, N.Y.
So what, you might think. Nothing could be more normal than a family celebration.
This one has a bittersweet twist.
Moore, 57, and Judith Abercrombie, 73, were to meet face to face today for the first time in both their lives.
Judith Bastian was 15 when she and her 19-year-old boyfriend John Hamm Jr. conceived the son who was born at a time when out-of-wedlock births were a family embarrassment to be concealed, if at all possible.
That is how Warren, Pa., tire business partner George Bastian saw the world in 1956. He resolutely arranged for his grandson to be adopted without consulting – and over the frantic objections of – his daughter and the boy’s father who wanted to marry and raise their son.
He kept Hamm from seeing his daughter during the delivery and even refused to allow her to see the child after he was born and before he was given to someone else to raise.
Moore, senior pastor at Central Christian Church in Hermitage, told his story earlier this week, his tears and joy mixing freely with his excitement about meeting his mother and many other relatives he had been dreaming about since boyhood and getting to know a little through telephone calls for the last month.
The father of four grown children and grandfather of three was 11 years old when he learned he had been adopted by Merton and Betty Moore under an agreement Bastian arranged and had locked under seal in Warren County court under state laws that still make disclosure of adoption information difficult.
The senior Moores and Bastians are all deceased, as is Hamm, who died in 1981.
“My mother would never discuss my birth mother or answer any of my questions because she was afraid I would be recognized somehow and taken from her. She was adamant even when I told her I would never leave,” Moore said. “I loved them both dearly and I understand her protectiveness now, but it was hard for me when I was a boy.”
The adoption was handled by the doctor who delivered Moore and Bastian’s family lawyer. Moore’s repeated efforts with the courts to unseal the adoption records never succeeded, and even a detective agency had no luck finding his unknown parents.
Shortly after Betty Moore’s death in 1994, Merton Moore, who had provided their only child with a comfortable life and education, gave his son the adoption certificate whose court seal had never been broken.
Jeffrey Moore learned that his birth name was “George Hamm Bastian,” given to him by his grandfather and unknown even to his birth mother.
A social network request several months ago for information led to clues on Facebook from subscribers in Warren. Using those for online research, Moore’s son, also Jeffrey, found and spoke to Judith Abercrombie of Syracuse, N.Y.
“He called me in tears and said, ‘Dad, I found your mom,’ ” Moore said. “I had to pull myself together but I called her within the hour. There were a lot more tears on both sides.
“She cried and said, ‘I can’t believe you found me,’ ” Moore added. “I said, ‘I have been searching for you as long as I canremember.’ ”
Mother and son have spoken frequently since then, getting to know each other a little, answering each others’ questions, and arranging today’s meeting at the home of one of Moore’s newly found sisters, Michelle del Grosso-Bacon.
Not all of his long unknown family will be there today, Moore said, but he expects to spend coming weeks and months whenever he can meeting all of his seven sisters and a brother, as well as their children.
“When we were talking, I told my mother my birthdays were always hard for me,” Moore said. “I always hoped and prayed that somehow the phone would ring or there would be a knock at the door and it would be one of my biological parents. I dreamed about that and longed for it, but it never happened.”
A Buffalo television station planned to cover Moore’s arrival today with his wife, Naomi, for his long awaited mother and child reunion. He chuckled ruefully to know others will see him at such an emotional, personal moment but said it won’t affect his joy.
“My sister Michelle said she absolutely can’t wait. My mother said, ‘I can’t wait to look into your eyes,’ and I can hardly wait myself,” he said. “I just want to get ahold of them and never let go.”