ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — No one can say why she came to Albuquerque.
Her family, most of whom lived in the Midwest, had lost touch with her. Her ex-husband had, too, after they divorced in November 1959, remarried in 1962 or 1965 and divorced again in 1967. Gloria Mae and Ronald James Conner had wanted children, but that was not to be and neither was their marriage.
But here she was in 1961, alone and preparing to give birth in Albuquerque.
Baby Boy Conner was born on Christmas Eve that year at Bataan Methodist Memorial Hospital on Gibson SE. By then, the baby had already been spoken for, his adoption arranged by a preacher for Jerry and Mary Gold of Odessa, Texas.
Gloria, then 34, was like an answer to their prayers.
By all accounts, Timothy Wayne Gold’s childhood was a happy one. He grew up, married Belinda Jean, moved to Mineola, Texas, and made a good living crafting custom fishing rods. Even so, he couldn’t stop wondering about the woman who gave him away.
“On my birthday, every Christmas Eve, I wondered if she ever thought of me, what I looked like or what I was doing,” he wrote in an email to family. “I would look in the mirror and think of what she might have looked like. That has been on my mind since I can recall.”
In 2012, he asked Betty Northrup, his wife’s aunt and a resident of Albuquerque, to find out what she could about his birth mother.
Northrup, an ebullient woman just itching for a happy ending, was more than happy to try.
“I just started going to the library to look through all the microfiche,” she said. “I was there for days.”
She searched other records, accessed ancestry information online and posted on adoption and family search websites. But the mother of Baby Boy Conner largely remained a mystery.
That is, until she learned there was another Baby Boy Conner.
In Williamsville, a small village in central Illinois, Dave Smith had also wondered about his birth mother.
The recently retired police chief, born Sept. 9, 1960, in Springfield, Ill., knew he had been adopted at birth, but in deference to his adopted parents had done little beyond wonder.
“I had a great relationship with my parents,” he said in an email. “To me, my parents ARE my parents.”
After both of his parents’ deaths, he and his wife, Nancy, were cleaning out the family home when they came across his adoption papers. In the papers, he was listed as “Baby Boy Conner aka Baby Boy Larsen,” possibly referring to the last name of his birth father. But the only parent listed was Gloria M. Conner.
In 2012, he Googled Gloria’s name and came across one of Northrup’s postings.
“So many things started falling into place after that,” a giddy Northrup said. “It was amazing.”
In November 2012, Smith located Gloria’s brother Craig Neuenburg of St. Paul, Minn. – the last member of Gloria’s immediate family. In an email, Neuenburg said he and his wife, Joyce, had wanted Gloria to keep the first baby – Smith – and had provided a room for her in their home but that they were devastated when she opted instead to move in with a sister in Loami, Ill., near Springfield, before giving up the child for adoption, possibly over her concerns that she could not care for a child on her own because of her asthma.
Neuenburg said he had no information about “Larsen” but that Gloria had told him that the birth father had skedaddled the minute he knew she was pregnant.
Gloria disappeared after that, not resurfacing until after their father’s funeral in January 1962. By then, her second baby – Gold – had been born in Albuquerque and adopted without the family’s knowledge.
Smith also located Ronald Conner, Gloria’s ex-husband, in Wasilla, Alaska. Conner told him he was shocked to learn that Gloria had given birth twice in the short time between their marriages. She had never spoken about the babies, he said.
“But he was so excited to meet Tim and Dave,” Northrup said. “Unfortunately, he died in 2013 at age 85 before he had that chance.”
Gone now, too, is Neuenburg, who passed away last March at age 87. Before his death, he held a large family reunion at his home in August 2013 to welcome the two brothers into the fold.
Gloria is gone, as well. A death certificate indicates that she was 48 when she died of breast cancer in San Rafael, Calif., on Jan. 8, 1976. She had never remarried, never raised a family.
That Gold and Smith never had a chance to meet her is bittersweet, but both men say they are thankful that she selflessly gave them to loving families.
Those loving families, born by blood or choice or chance, are much bigger now. That, they say, is the greatest gift. And that, Northrup said, is a happy ending – and a wonderful new beginning.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.