In the morning hours of April 3, 2013, a scene seemingly straight out of a movie script was unfolding at SeaTac Airport, as two long-lost sisters were re-united after more than 60 years.
DuPont, Wash. resident Marsha Doodigian was born and raised in Middletown Ohio. Reared alongside two half-brothers, by her paternal grandparents, Martha knew nothing of her birth mother, something that was not spoken of in her household. Living with older brothers, she always harbored a deep-seated wish for a sister.
Over 2,000 miles away, Mille Gay of Franklin, Ohio, held tight to memories of the baby sister she cradled in her arms when she was eight years-old, never to be seen again. After spending the first three years of her life in the care of her mother, Gay was raised in a series of foster homes, where she recalls being treated much like a servant. At the tender age of 13, she was on her own, marrying at 15 years old, and eventually becoming a mother, herself, to six children.
While Doodigian was completely unaware of her existence, Gay was doing everything in her power to find Marsha, her sister.
Bits of information would trickle in from time-to-time, such as an announcement of Marsha’s marriage, posted in the Ohio hometown newspaper, but it never led to the discovery of her sister’s whereabouts.
Married, and a mother of four, Doodigian and her military spouse were never in one place for long, moving around the world with her family. During these years she had become inquisitive as to whom her mother was, but with a busy life, focused on her children, didn’t get serious about her search efforts until 1995. In trying to find her mother, Doodigian said, “I hit every road block imaginable”, and the searches were fruitless.
In 2011, Gay read an Obituary in her local paper, and recognized the last name as that of Marsha’s half-brother. She met the wife of the deceased, who was able to put her into contact with her long-lost, baby sister, Marsha.
Doodigian describes her brother’s death as bittersweet.
“God never closes a door without opening another,” she said.
Her brother’s death brought an unexpected treasure; the knowledge of the sister she had always hoped for. Through Gay, she learned that her mother had given birth to 12 children, and had passed away from cancer at 48. Gay had been able to re-kindle a relationship with their mother a year and a half before her death. Doodigian also discovered that she is connected to countless cousins, nieces, nephews, and two remaining half-siblings: A sister who is in a nursing facility in Ohio, and a brother in Indiana. She is getting to know her extended family through regular Facebook sessions, and phone calls, and plans a future flight to meet them.
Millie Gay’s youngest son, Chuck, understood the importance of finding her sister, to his mother. He wanted to make a re-union happen, and purchased for her a plane ticket for a month-long visit to Washington. As the day loomed, and nerves got the best of her, Gay jokingly inquired of her sister, “What if you don’t like me?”, to which the response was “Well, I’ll put your happy hiney on the plane, and send you back home!”
The sisters, thrilled to be together at last, are delighted with finding all of their similarities, from their strong faith in God, to their decorating style, love of fishing, passion for antiquing, and a shared enjoyment of the same soap opera. They have even found that they have similar mannerisms, and sense of humor.
“I have a sense of belonging now. This is a dream-come-true for me,” said Doodigian, with a satisfied smile.
As for Gay, after 63 years of hoping and searching, she describes her life as akin to a fairy tale.
“I kind of lived Cinderella’s life. We are both happy in the end.”