The North Bend Eagle


Family search yields unexpected twist

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 6/11/14

North Bend resident Carry Gerke recently found out that her family tree had a branch she didn’t know about, one that bore some unexpected fruit.

Gerke’s biological parents were divorced, so she was raised by her dad and stepmother. Gerke received a text from a half-brother asking what she thought about her “new aunt.” Gerke had no idea what he was talking about.

It seems that Gerke’s grandmother, Daisy Beagle, was separated from her husband in the early 1940s. During this time she had a baby. Her husband was listed on the birth certificate as the father, but it was obvious this baby was different than the rest of the family.

Grandmother Daisy was hit by a trolly car in Kansas City and took a year to heal. She reconciled with her husband and they got back together, with the condition that the child she had given birth to in 1942 be put up for adoption. It was a closed adoption, so all information of the deal was legally locked away.

The child, named Jeanette, was adopted in 1943 by a loving family in Newton, Kansas, renamed Verda Ann, educated, married and became a mother. Last fall Verda Byrd decided she was ready to search for her birth parents.

“I stepped out in faith,” Byrd said. “I didn’t know what I would find.”

Carry Gerke of North Bend, right, and Verda Byrd are all dressed up in some of Byrd's finest before heading to church. The meeting between aunt and niece was made possible by Byrd's search for her biological family.

She hired an investigator to research her biological family. Both adoptive and biological parents had to be deceased before this search was possible. The researcher confirmed that the biological parents were deceased, so she was able to further delve into Bride’s family. The researcher was able to tell Byrd that she had three sisters still living — and they were Caucasian.

Byrd, you see, is black.

The revelation was pretty overwhelming, Byrd said, not just because her sisters were white, but just the fact she had sisters — eight of them ­along with a brother — after all the years of thinking she was an only child.

Byrd send a certified letter to her newfound sister Sybil Planko, 76, in Florida introducing herself and included appropriate documentation to prove the connection. Later that week she received a call from another sister, Debby Romero, 57, of Dallas. All three of Byrd’s surviving sisters, including Katheryn Gutierrez of Omaha, were receptive to the new sibling. They are planning to get together at Byrd’s home June 21.

Gerke planned to visit her son John stationed Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, over Memorial Day weekend, so she called Byrd, her new aunt, at her home in San Antonio to see if they could meet. The Gerkes ended up staying at Byrd’s home.

“Verda is a very hospitable person,”Gerke said. “It is a very exciting time for her.”

Byrd and her husband, Trancle, invited Carry and John to their church, so Carry donned slacks and a nice top to wear to church as she did in North Bend. Byrd gently told her what she was wearing was not appropriate for her Southern Baptist church. They were able to find a dress, hat and jacket in Byrd’s collection for Gerke to wear that would blend in with the rest of the congregation.

Byrd looks at the whole situation with a positive outlook.

“It was a blessing from mama Daisy for giving me up,” Byrd said. “My life has been truly blessed. I tell my newfound siblings we are all Daisy’s daughters.”

As for Gerke, she is just pleased to have another aunt to love.

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