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Thanks to new adoption law, family ties just keep growing

Rick Stadel (left) waits Midway Airport with siblings Kathy Brooks Carmen Andrefor their newfound sister Lois Baumann arrive flight from

Rick Stadel (left) waits at Midway Airport with siblings Kathy Brooks and Carmen Andrea for their newfound sister, Lois Baumann, to arrive on a flight from Florida. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 11, 2012 10:12AM



Rick Stadel is a Baby Boomer in a unique situation.

While the rest of us graying Americans are facing the prospect of losing siblings, this Montgomery man is finding them.

Lots of them — thanks, most recently, to the new state law that allows adult adopted persons born in Illinois to request non-certified copies of their original birth certificates through the Illinois Department of Public Health.

In fact, when I caught up with the 62-year-old bus driver and community service officer for the Oswego Police Department, he was like a kid at Christmas. He’d just met the sister he never knew he had until a couple weeks ago.

On Saturday morning, Stadel and this newfound sibling — Kathy Brooks of Bellingham, Wash. — drove to Midway Airport to meet with yet another long lost sister, Lois Baumann, who had flown in from Sebring, Fla.

And this weekend, he and his two sisters are having a once-in-a-lifetime family reunion that also includes the two half-brothers Stadel found 20 years ago.

Now would probably be a good time to go back to the beginning of this story, right?

Born in Chicago Feb. 10, 1950, Stadel was adopted through a private attorney by Mary Jane and Earl Stadel of North Aurora when he was a couple months old. His adoption papers contained his birth parents’ names, so in 1991 — concerned about health issues — he and his wife Anna began searching for his blood family. Eventually they located, and formed a relationship with, his birth mom’s brother, Joe Calamia, who was living in Berwyn; and two half-brothers, Carmen Andrea and Angelo DeBurgo, both from Kenosha, Wis.

Stadel says his adopted parents — who “treated me like gold” — had told him he had a sister named Jacqueline. So for the past two decades, he and his half-brothers had been trying to locate her. That became much easier after Illinois passed a law in November of last year that allowed those adopted after Jan. 1, 1946, to apply for their birth certificates without consent from the birth parents. (The previous year, a law was passed applying to those born before that deadline.)

Since the new law took effect, more than 6,600 Illinois-born adult adoptees have requested a copy of their original birth certificate, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Less than 1 percent of birth parents have requested anonymity.

It was brother Angelo’s son, doing a search on his grandfather about a month ago on ancestory.com, who located the missing Jacqueline. Her name, which had been changed to Lois, popped up because she had registered immediately when the new law went into effect last November.

A reunion among these three brothers and new sister was scheduled at Stadel’s home on Sunday. Then, two weeks later, Lois got a call out of the blue from a woman named Kathy, who, after also registering under the new law, found out they shared a birth mother.

Just like that, the reunion included another sis.

All five of Catherine Calamia’s children were born at Mother Cabrini Hospital in Chicago. Catherine, who died at age 61, kept and raised Carmen and Angelo and was married to each of their dads. Lois, Rick and Kathy were placed for adoption.

Rick Stadel and Kathy Brooks, who both say they “just really clicked,” both see the resemblance between each other and share easy-going personalities. They could be full siblings, but aren’t sure.

“It’s not important,” Stadel says. “She’s my sister.”

When I caught up with them, he and Brooks were sitting outside, looking at photos of their childhoods and filling each other in on six decades of life.

All their own children are adults now, so it’s like “a whole new crew,” Stadel chuckles about their new expanded family.

Could there be more out there?

“Who knows,” he says. “I always wanted a big family ... and boy, do I have it now.”



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