If I were writing my autobiography, this would be Chapter number 1.  I’m fortunate to have an outlet to document this, and maybe a few readers that might care.  It’s therapy for me!  I’m getting the words out of my head, clearing the way for new knowledge.  It’s a cleansing process that I feel is important in retirement, and wish I had something to read like this about my adopted parents.  I only have one page of information on my birth mother and her family with a simple paragraph dedicated to the assumed father.  I have so many questions at this point of life that somehow weren’t important back then.

I’m technically retiring for two, since I have a dual identity that dates back to birth.  I was born Jerry Lee Bannister on August 27, 1951 to Edna Faye Bannister.  I do not know the name of my “alleged” father, only that he was 20 years old and a Marine, probably did his service in Korea in 1951.  I was immediately put up for adoption after birth, and there was a two-month string of legal documents before I was eventually placed.  I may never know the reason that I was put up for adoption.  I do know that I was fortunate to end up in the home of Burton and Catherine Johnston in Elkhart, Indiana.

I alluded to my adoption in Post #80: Happy Endings because my story truly does have a happy ending, when so many other adoption stories don’t.  Mine does not have a dramatic conclusion like the movie “Lion,” one of the most touching adoption stories that I have ever watched.  I also briefly mentioned adoption in Post #48: Black Rock, but discussed very little about my adopted mother and birth mother.  I also have an adopted younger sister, who did find her birth mother and maintains a close relationship.

This all reads like a mystery novel, with the following clues outlined in a Social and Medical Background Information report that I received from the Suemma Coleman Agency in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I also have an Adoptive Home Placement Agreement, court petitions, birth certificate, correspondence, and medical records at birth.  I would probably have had none of this information if it weren’t for the curiosity and clearance credentials of a friend in the newspaper business.  I was not interested in pursuing the identity of my birth parents, if for no other reason the loyalty I felt for my adopted parents.  For some reason, I perceived that it might betray my allegiance to them, and remember being quite upset at my sister for openly exercising her curiosity.   She had some medical issues and wanted genetic background.  My friend, whether I wanted it or not, gave me the name of my Birth mother and an address from sealed adoption files that she accessed via her media credentials.   It still amazes me that she could access my adoption history, but I could not.  I’m glad she did though!

My first interest was to find a photo of my birth mother.  I did not want to make contact with her, but simply wanted to see if there was a resemblance.  I logically went to the hospital nearest to the address I was given and collected my medical records.  In addition, I wrote the Suemma Coleman Agency requesting background paperwork.  I received a one-page summary:

“Your alleged father was a Marine.  He was 20 years old, 6’2 1/2 ” tall, and weighed 195 pounds.  He had wavy, black hair, dark brown eyes, and a medium complexion.  He was described as gregarious, easy-going, generous, a good worker, and good looking.  He was a high school graduate.  He played football, baseball, and basketball in high school, and liked boxing, swimming, bowling, and dancing.  His ancestry was Irish.  He was also a Baptist.”

“Your birth mother was 18 years old, 5’2″ tall and 102 pounds.  She had light brown eyes, brown hair, and a straight nose.  She had completed her junior year in high school.  She was described as quiet, thoughtful, and cooperative.”

Other details in the report:

  • Birthmother’s Father – age 49 – a crossing guard on a railroad
  • Birthmother’s Mother – age 47 – factory worker with 8 children
  • 3 Sisters- ages 28, 27, and 25 all married and housewives
  • 1 Sister – age 20 – worked as a solderer
  • Brother – age 23 – also a crossing guard on a railroad
  • Twin Brothers – age 19 – production line employees
  • Irish and English descent and of the Baptist Faith
  • Grandfather still alive but retired, and Grandmother still employed

With her address, the name Edna Faye Bannister, and her seven siblings, I began to play detective.  My first stop was the High School in that neighborhood.  I left my office dressed in a suit and tie and went directly to the school librarian.  I figured that with all those kids named Bannister, I would be able to find them in the High School yearbooks.  The school happened to be closed that day, but the principal was working.  She apparently sympathized with my story and let me do my research.  I did not find anything and told her so as I exited the library. Maybe it was the way I dressed or the way I carried myself?  She asked me, as I was headed out the door, “Are you with the FBI?”

I was conducting an investigation, but hardly on the scale of the FBI.  After striking out at the school, I became more curious about the address I was given by my friend.  Since I wasn’t at that point looking for a person, only a photo, I had not checked out the home address.  It may have been because I was concerned about getting too close – a simple photo seemed so safe.  I had a job interview in that neighborhood, so I walked around the block to 2044 North Illinois Street, the home address accompanying the name, Edna Faye Bannister.  It was nothing but a parking lot.  That’s when it became apparent this was the address for a home for unwed mothers.  My guess is that the embarrassed family pulled her out of high school and sent her far away from home to give birth.  This was common in this era, and I did then discover that the Suemma Coleman Agency was once the Suemma Coleman Home.  It provided care for the expectant mother in the months prior to delivery and then made adoption arrangements.  This was why their were no Bannister children enrolled in the neighboring High School.

I did get the job, and as it turns out my new office windows overlooked the very lot where the Suemma Coleman Home once stood.  It was the ultimate Homing experience!  Over the course of 35 years, I had navigated my way from Elkhart, Indiana to Indianapolis, and returned to the very neighborhood where I spent the first few months of my life!  The only thing still missing was the mother that gave birth to me.  The Bannister family must have agreed in advance to put me up for adoption, and Edna Faye then returned to their home, wherever that was? Years later, when I finally decided to use an intermediary to find her, it was determined that Rome, Georgia was that location.  However, they could find no trace of her.

I took it upon myself to contact some Bannisters in that area, hoping to find a connection.  I even went so far as to establish a second Facebook page for my name at birth, Jerry Lee Bannister.   I have, in fact, befriended Bannisters all over the country, but have yet to find a photo, relatives, or any information on my birth mother.  I also may never know the story of the father, and what ended the relationship.  Did he even know that she was pregnant?  Was the mother protecting the true identity of the father by making up a story of the soldier?  Were they in love?  Or, did he die in Korea?

That’s the beauty of adoption and not knowing the answers.  Before the name Edna Faye Bannister became a reality to me, I always fantasized of having royal roots, or romanticized about the relationship that brought me into the world.  I felt different from everyone else, separated at birth.  Every time I visited a doctor’s office and had to fill out the forms related to family history – I had none.  All I had was a piece of paper that gave me some identity, but left me clueless as to my true identity.  Was I named after Jerry Lee Lewis, since he was so popular at that time?  Was my father’s name Jerry?

I never really had to sneak around my parents in identifying my past.  They were prepared to tell me everything they knew.  They were aware that my alleged birth father was a Marine.  That’s why they were probably haunted when “The Marines Hymn” was the only song I learned to play on the piano.  I would play it incessantly, as if maybe my birth mother used to hum it as she thought about her Marine lover in preparing to give birth to me.  I would just have to thank her for the decision that she made in putting me up for adoption.  It was the happy ending that shaped me into what I am today.  I wrote this poem a few years ago, as I thought about how difficult that decision must have been for everyone involved:

Thank You 

Some women aren’t ready,
To serve Mother’s role.
Raising a child,
Is not yet their goal.
A selfish moment,
Of love and lust.
But nothing like this,
Was ever discussed.
Two at the time,
Now left up to one.
He may have not known,
Or decided to run.
There’s feelings of shame,
Maybe left all alone.
But worst of all,
Your future unknown.
Financial hardship,
Not quite mature.
Is it fair to the child?
If the parent’s not sure.
If you’re not prepared,
There is an option.
If you’re not able,
Consider adoption.
If you’re not excited
About motherhood.
If you’re not happy,
Someone else would.
There are loving couples,
Who can’t conceive.
It’s the right thing to do,
You have to believe.
Can’t give up a baby,
So helpless and small?
It’s time to consider,
What’s best for all.


There may be guilt,
Or thoughts of regret.
But you can’t match,
The love they will get.
Please don’t abort,
A gift so great.
A life’s in your hands,
Don’t hesitate.
If you’re undecided,
Just ask me.
If not for someone like you,
I simply wouldn’t be.
If you need forgiveness,
For letting me go.
You did me a favor,
I want you to know.
Among the many things,
That I’m grateful for.
It wasn’t just my life,
I’ve added three more.
Not that I wouldn’t have,
Had a great life with you.
You wanted more for me,
And I know that’s true.


Thank you for me,
Sorry for the pain.
Though difficult to say,
Your loss was my gain.


Copyright November 2011