LEXINGTON – At the foot of the Linwood Lawn bed-and-breakfast staircase, Annette Gaiser looked up at big brother Dan Garnett Sr. as they talked about things siblings talk about during family get-togethers.
Except the conversations at this Sharp family gathering mark the first they could remember after spending nearly 70 years apart.
The Sharp saga began after William and Lois Sharp divorced and, in December 1950, Lois gave up their children for adoption. The boys, Dan and John Sharp Garnett, stayed together. The girls, Lisa Pierce and Gaiser, went to different families. Brenda Hamm is their half-sister from Lois Martin Sharp’s second marriage.
Hamm said she wanted to find her siblings for her mother, who “always wondered about her children.” Hamm started a 35-year search in 1984, first finding Gaiser, who lived in Ray County.
“I knew at 16 that I was adopted,” Gaiser said. “I just knew they would come find me. I remember being upset and wondering why my siblings hadn’t found me.”
Gaiser admitted going through a “gamut of emotions,” including anger and grief over losing her siblings.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotion,” she said. “When Brenda and I first met, I didn’t really believe her.”
Since then, Gaiser has rejoiced in being reunited with her sister and surviving brother. She said the Christmas they celebrated at Linwood Lawn “has been a blast.”
The siblings and their spouses took over Linwood Lawn, an antebellum bed and breakfast near Lexington, for three days after Christmas. They exchanged gifts, including pictures. They shared stories about their lives; trying to catch up after 69 years. Dan played his guitar and his sisters joined in to sing.
“I gave Dan a photo of mom and him when he was an infant,” Hamm said. “Mom had all of these pictures without names and, before she died, we went through and identified all of the people. On the back of this one, she wrote the picture is the one she sent to William when Dan was born.”
Garnett said he is not an emotional person and his wife, Nora Garnett, agreed.
“He doesn’t get giddy or excited. He’s a quiet, happy kind of guy,” Nora said.
But as friends and family met at Linwood Lawn, he got a little teary-eyed while talking about his sisters.
“I never thought they would have worked so hard to find us,” he said. “Brenda has this intensity and this focus, and never gave up.”
Nora said Dan’s adoptive parents shared his real last name with her in 1981, but they had no clue to the women’s whereabouts.
“We tried finding them when we were in Kansas City and we visited Excelsior Springs,” Nora said. “But nothing was familiar. Dan was told his sisters were older.”
Dan said he had some anxious moments before meeting his sisters.
“I am surprised at how comfortable I feel; it’s like a homecoming,” he said. “We have so much in common – our faith in God and our music.”
Dan is a country gospel singer. John played the guitar. Hamm, Gaiser, Pierce and all of Dan’s daughters sing.
Favorite cake? As a chorus, “German chocolate.”
Pierce said the reunion “is a real blessing.”
“We are connecting with our past, laughing and talking,” she said. “It is just awesome.”
As Nora watched the family interact, she said she saw four siblings who looked like they had never been apart.
“They have meshed like time didn’t happen,” she said. “There has been no break in their ties.”
Nora said Dan lost touch with John in 1987.
“We did not know when, in 2003, John died,” Nora said.
Hamm said she felt the time to find her brothers had almost run out. But she found them with the help of a “search angel,” Dawn Kosmakos, from a Facebook group; family private investigators; and newspapers, including The Richmond News.
“Even if I never found Dan and John, I knew I would have given it my best shot,” Hamm said.
Just before Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, all the pieces had come together and for the first time she talked with Dan.
“I can’t believe how complicated the search was,” Dan said. “I wish I’d have met mom. I want to thank her for life and her sacrifice.”
As Pierce turned and gazed around the dining room, her siblings visited and took pictures of each other.
Turning back around in her chair, she said, “Here’s my family.”