Two big happy familiesMar 25, 2020 03:23PM ● By Melanie Wiseman
With help from her son, Adam (center), adoptee Marti Beckman (left) learned she had a biological sister, Janice (right), who lived just hours away in St. George, Utah.
Adopted woman finds sister, birth family at age 68
Marti Beckman always knew she was adopted, but even with wonderful parents and two close siblings, she couldn’t help but wonder where she came from.
“The story my parents always told me was they were window shopping in Denver when they saw me in the window and brought me home,” said Beckman, 71.
Being that Colorado adoption records prior to 1950 were sealed, she’d learned to accept living with unanswered questions. That is, until her son and daughter-in-law gave her a Christmas gift on her 68th birthday that would change her life.
Beginning the search
Beckman’s son, Adam, and his wife, both Denver attorneys, anticipated the change in law that unsealed those records on January 1, 2016. The knowledge that Beckman now had the legal right to seek records of her biological parents set the wheels in motion. Adam filed paperwork with the juvenile court system, and after months of waiting, they were told to apply for adoption paperwork in Pueblo where Beckman was adopted. There they received copies of birth records for Baby Lynn Ann Simpson.
“My biological parents cared enough to name me before putting me up for adoption,” said Beckman.
Previously sealed documents painted pictures of her mother and father. Kathryn Zauhar, then 28, was a Dawson, New Mexico teacher living with her parents. Details revealed a 5-foot 5-inch tall woman with hazel eyes and dark brown hair who enjoyed outdoor sports and had a friendly smile.
Her father, James Simpson, was 25, a World War II Marine and Denver draftsman with blue eyes, black hair, good health, and a high school education.
Under the care of Denver Catholic Charities, Kathryn gave birth to “baby girl Simpson.” She specifically requested her sister, Anna, was the only relative to know of the birth. Kathryn, James and Anna all took the secret with them when they died.
Six weeks later, baby girl Simpson was adopted by John and Josephine Crum, who renamed her Martha “Marti” Josephine.
The long-lost sister
The biggest lead came when Adam found James’ obituary stating he was survived by a daughter in St. George, Utah.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I had a sister,” said Beckman.
Her name was Janice.
On September 2, 2016, Adam wrote Janice telling her she had a biological sister who lived in Grand Junction and would like to meet her.
“Janice called me the day after she got the letter,” said Beckman. “She was in shock, always thinking she was an only child. She recognized her mom’s handwriting on the consent for adoption forms so she knew it was legit.”
A few weeks later, Beckman rang the doorbell of Janice’s home in St. George. The family resemblance was instantly apparent.
“My husband said, ‘She has little ears like you!’” said Beckman.
Janice got out photo albums, giving Beckman the first glimpses of her parents and extended family.
“Janice said her mother lived with [her and her husband] during her final years and that right before she died, she always sensed there was something she needed to tell her but never did,” said Beckman. “Staying silent about the adoption was especially strange with Janice having two adopted children and her mom being there during the process.”
Beckman learned that her biological parents (Janice said they were known as Jim and Kay) ended up getting married a year after her adoption, had Janice five years later and settled into their long life together in Santa Fe. Considering what life was like at the time, Beckman wasn’t surprised she was kept a secret.
“It was a different day then, and they were from conservative Catholic families. Everything was pretty hush, hush,” said Beckman.
Beckman is certain she and Janice would be great friends if they weren’t sisters.
“We have a lot in common,” said Beckman. “We’re both huge bookworms, and Janice worked for a nonprofit women’s shelter and as a child’s advocate for the state of Utah, while I’m a victim’s advocate for the Grand Junction Police Department.”
Janice told Beckman their dad was a big jokester and the life of the party. Their mom was much more reserved.
“I’m more like Jim and Janice is more like Kay,” said Beckman. “Janice said ‘I think Dad would have been tickled pink to meet you. Mom, not so much because of her conservative ways.’”
Their father died about 10 years ago, and Kay died shortly before Adam began the search.
Just months later, Beckman was introduced to 35 new relatives at a family reunion weekend in New Mexico. Bright red T-shirts listed the family names present with a special shout out: “Welcome, Marti.”
In 2018, Janice was introduced to Beckman’s friends at a party in her Grand Junction neighborhood, and her sister, Nancy.
Beckman never thought she would find the answer to her parents. Janice still can’t believe she never knew she had a sister. But they don’t dwell much on the past. Instead, they choose to move forward into the future, cherishing their newfound sisterhood.