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Reunited sisters enjoy Natchez trip

NATCHEZ — A group of sisters in their 60s said it was like old times when they had a slumber party in the same bedroom at Glenfield Plantation Bed and Breakfast Friday night.

But what was extraordinary about the girls’ weekend getaway in Natchez was not that three of the four biological Williams sisters were celebrating birthdays — but that the women who slept in adjacent twin beds have recently located one another after being separated for 50 years.

In 1956, Betty Roberson, 3, Bonnie Thomason, 5, and Roberta Ann Bouchon, 6, were put in foster care in West Monroe, La. That same year, Sandra Hampton, of the same parents, was privately adopted. In 1959, courts declared the three older sisters abandoned, and they were separately adopted.

The sisters lost touch completely.

All four made separate attempts to locate one another over the years, but legal red tape prevented any success until a breakthrough occurred six years ago.

Roberson of Shreveport and Thomason of Monroe found each other in 2005. In 2007, Hampton, of West Monroe, found those two. In 2010, the three sisters reunited with Bouchon of New Orleans.

Roberson’s husband had the idea to post her story for sale on eBay in a wild attempt to attract any nibbles. The idea came about when Roberson’s search gained a sense of urgency after she was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2000.

And when Thomason got a hold of the story in 2005 after it was publicized in a Monroe newspaper as an example of eclectic things for sale on eBay, Roberson got a big bite.

Thomason said her friend showed her the article because she knew about Thomason’s adoption.

“After (the story ran) I was face-to-face with Bonnie after 50 years,” Roberson said.

Since Roberson lived in Shreveport and Thomason lived in Monroe, the two met at a McDonalds in Ruston.

“It was unbelievable. It was like we had never been apart,” Thomason said.

The comparisons and catching up began.

The sisters remembered they had another sister, the oldest (Bouchon). And they soon learned there were two more, younger sisters that were privately adopted around the time they entered foster care.

Sandra Lynn Hampton, who grew up in West Monroe, located Bonnie and Betty after her son, Brandon Steed, searched his biological grandparents names on the Internet.

Roberson’s eBay post popped up when he searched “Robert and Evelyn Williams.”

A successful e-mail message to Roberson later, and the two reunited sisters had a third.

The oldest sister was reconnected to the three sisters when Steed knocked on Bouchon’s door in New Orleans just last May.

“I thought he was either a Census (Bureau) guy or a salesman,” Bouchon admitted.

When Steed introduced himself and asked if she was the daughter Evelyn Williams, Bouchon showed her shock in an odd manner.

“She slammed the door in my face,” Steed laughed.

“I thought, OK, this could be good or this could be bad.”

Bouchon said after slamming the door on her nephew, she darted to the back of the house to excitedly tell her son what the man at the door said, and he naturally told her to invite him in.

Steed said his aunt was a bit frantic about the bomb he had just dropped.

“She was like, sit down! No, wait, come over here! Wait, what is your name again?” Steed said.

When Bouchon drove to meet her sisters finally, she said she cried the whole way there.

Despite decades of separation, getting to know each other has been easy because they are just alike, they all agreed.

“We’re scarily alike,” Roberson said.

Hampton’s daughter, Gini, who was also in Natchez for the weekend, said when her aunts cook, all of their food tastes the same.

They also have similar taste in clothes and jewelry, Steed said.

“They like that fru fru jewelry, he said.

Gini said all of the husbands get along, too.

“It’s funny how everybody clicked,” Steed said.

The sisters, Steed and Gini expressed their frustrations with the brick walls they faced when trying to acquire information about their backgrounds.

They do know that their mother was born in Lafayette, was a waitress and a cook, went to school until age 12, and apparently suffered a nervous breakdown around the time three of the sisters were put into foster care.

They believe the nervous breakdown was partially caused by the death of their baby brother, Robert Lee Williams. Financial struggles might have also had been a motivator for their abandonment, the sisters said. Robert Williams was apparently a truck driver and mechanic who had no schooling.

The limited information they have comes from information in a “non-identifying” document, which cannot be depended on as 100-percent accurate, Thomason said, because some mothers might fabricate information if they wish to never be found, she said.

Thomason said one important reason they desire for the information to be more accessible to adopted adults is medical history.

All of the sisters have a similar heart condition, and Thomason said knowledge of the condition would have been more helpful if they had known their family’s health history sooner.

More information is especially important since the sisters believe there is a fifth sister still out there. The fifth sister was privately adopted as an infant, Steed said.

Private adoptions mean more red tape, but Steed said it is his mission to find his fourth aunt.

Steed said they hope to cast a wider net in the search for the fifth Williams sister with each new piece of publicity.

“It’s just more fuel for the fire,” Steed said.

Since finding each other, the sisters said they feel more complete, like they have found a part of them that was always missing.

Celebrating Thomason’s birthday on Saturday and Hampton and Bouchon’s birthdays on Friday in Natchez — a good halfway point between their hometowns — is one of many reunions they plan on having with the newly extended family.

And with Hampton and Roberson both expecting a grandchild, the family tree will grow even more.

“There’s more branches,” Bouchon said.

“Before it was just a shrub,” Gini added.

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