28 December 1995 -
10 years, 3 months, and 10 days after Harold "Smokey" Stover passed away, an amazing discovery was made, which resulted in the following article.
The following article appeared in the Sunday Courier News, New Jersey, February 25, 1996, written by Tom Perry.
FAMILY MYSTERY HAS A HAPPY ENDING, ALMOST ...
Earlier this month, Darlene Dziowgo of Piscataway flew to Kentucky to spend some time with relatives.
In today's small world, such trips are regular occurrences.
But the story of how she came to visit her uncle and cousins is a haunting tale of a deceased father's gift and lost family ties found nearly 70 years after they were severed in Kentucky.
A year ago, Dziowgo knew almost nothing about her father's family. Her dad, Harold "Smokey" Stover, had been adopted.
"My dad knew his birth name and had shared that with us," she said, "but for some reason had no interest in finding his natural parents."
This past week, Dziowgo recalled being a senior in high school in 1975. With a chance to earn extra credit for putting together a family tree, she approached her father, hoping to pry more information about his nationality from him.
But her dad, an easygoing man, threw up a wall. She remembers him saying, "You don't need to know anything. You're an American. That's all you need to know."
In September, 1985, "Smokey" Stover, one of the best compositors to work for The Courier-News, died. Two months later, a daughter, Melissa, was born to Michael and Darlene Dziowgo, which created a need to obtain family medical history.
Well, in New Jersey, adoption records are sealed and guarded with irrational prejudice against offspring and descendants.
By the March after her daughter was born, Dziowgo was able to get her dad's birth certificate. No information was given about her grandfather, and her grandmother's name was scrawled so recklessly that it could not be read.
Dziowgo continued to gather bits and pieces where she could, but her search had reached a dead end.
Then, last August, an uncanny turn of events_new_new opened a window of light and hope. Dziowgo's two brothers were rolling up carpet in their parent's bedroom for their mom, who was getting new furniture.
Under the old bedroom carpet, they found a faded, yellow 3-by-5 index card. It was folded the way men fold cards to keep them in their wallets. Hand-written on the card was her dad's birth name and birth date and the names of his natural parents.
"My dad knew he was dying," Dziowgo said. "I believe he shoved the card under the carpet for a reason, but I don't think he realized he would be giving me such an unbelievable, incredible gift."
Dziowgo checked Kentucky telephone books at the library and made lists of the two family names she found on the card. But it took more than three months for her to muster the courage to start calling the names on the list.
Finally, last Dec. 28, Dziowgo's third phone call put her in touch with David Tuttle in Kentucky. Not only was Tuttle her dad's kid brother, he had spent the past 20 years along with his sister and uncle looking for his long, lost brother.
Tuttle celebrated his 60th birthday on Feb. 13, 1996. His new found niece Darlene Dziowgo flew to Kentucky "to represent her dad" at the party.
In Kentucky, she was welcomed with open arms. She also learned that her dad, who was born in 1928, was the son of two teen-agers who had fallen in love.
Because Dziowgo's grandmother's family was prominent, her grandmother was sent away to have her baby, and the child was put up for adoption.
As it turned out, her father's parents ran off to Indiana to get married only five months after her dad was born. Though their first child had been taken from them, their love for each other endured. They were married until 1975, when Dziowgo's grandmother died.
This past Friday, Darlene Dziowgo stood before Judge Alan Rockoff at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick.
Dziowgo had petitioned the court to have her father's adoption papers unsealed. Though the judge was polite, kind and even sympathetic, he denied Dziowgo's request in accordance with the state law.
The judge recommended that she hire an attorney and petition another branch of the state bureaucracy. Dziowgo is thinking about taking that costly step.
But in the meantime she is trying to get the state to change its laws.
The Legislature is considering measures that will give adoptees and their families access to medical, cultural and social records without affecting the confidentiality of birth parents who chose to remain unknown.
Even though her father's "gift" helped her find her lost family, Dziowgo is determined. With the help of the New Jersey Coalition for Openness on Adoption, she's gathering signatures on a petition that she'll give to her local lawmakers.
She knows that all quests to find lost relatives may not always turn out as happily as hers, but she has come to believe that this is a matter of and individual's right to know.
Because Judge Rockoff was so considerate and understanding, Dziowgo said she was not upset when he denied her request. She said she knows his hands were tied.
"Besides," she said, "I think this is my father's way of testing me, to see how much of a fight I'm willing to put up for something I believe in."