Dewey, Andrew (child)

Andrew Dewey is shown as a child; his name was Brian until he was age 3 1/2.

MATTOON -- Two siblings from Mattoon who were separated and then adopted into different families approximately 50 years ago recently have been reunited.

These two half siblings, Andrew Dewey of Chatham, Ill., and Brenda Lou (Foster) Freeman of North Carolina, plan to meet face to face for the first time later this month in Mattoon. As they prepare for this reunion, they are seeking information from the community about their late mother and late grandfather and about any family they may still have living in the area.

Dewey, who was born on Sept. 8, 1966, said the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed him from the home of his mother at 19th Street and Western Avenue in Mattoon, for reasons that are still unknown to him, when he was an infant. Dewey, whose given name was Brian or Bryan, was then placed into foster care.

Later, he was adopted by John and Marilyn Dewey of Penfield when he was 3 1/2 years old. His name was changed to James Andrew Dewey to follow a long tradition of men with the initials J.A.D. in the Dewey family. Dewey said his own son is named Jerraud Anthony Dewey and is 17 now.

"I spent my whole life very happy with my adopted family. They are my parents. They will always be my parents, but there was always this hole in me," Dewey, 50, said of not knowing the identity of his birth family. Dewey said this "hole" was most often exposed during doctors' appointments when he was asked to provide his family's medical history.

Sealed adoption records offered him no help and his research efforts over the years yielded few clues, Dewey said. He said running into these dead ends led him to submit a DNA sample to ancestry.com, an online family genealogy resource company.

Dewey said his use of ancestry.com two weeks ago led to him locating his half sister, Brenda Freeman, 57, who separately also had submitted a DNA sample to this company. They spoke to each other via phone soon afterward. Dewey said he was overjoyed to hear her say that she remembered having a little brother named Brian.

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"That was an incredible feeling. Immediately, that hole finally healed," Dewey said of finding his biological family. Dewey said his sister and half brother were separated from him when he was an infant and they were later adopted together. Dewey said he has located his half brother, Allen Foster,  but has not been in contact with him yet.

For her part, Freeman said she was nearly overwhelmed by feelings upon locating her little brother and hearing his voice for the first time.

"I was extremely emotional and amazed that something like that can happen after 50 years," Freeman said.

By getting in contact with Freeman, Dewey was able to find out the identity of their mother -- Sally Sue Foster. Dewey said he had hoped that she would still be alive, but was saddened to find out that she is deceased. He said his mother died at age 37 on Oct. 4, 1978, in a car accident near Allenville.

Freeman said she visited her mother's grave at Resthaven Memorial Gardens in 1994 during her last visit to Mattoon, but still knows little about her.

Both Freeman and Dewey said they want to find out more about their mother and their late grandfather, Albert Foster, who drove for Checker Top Cab in Mattoon for approximately 30 years and is buried in Toledo. They also hope to find two of their aunts, Carolyn and Dorothy, who may still be alive and locate any cousins they may have. Dewey said he also is still trying to determine the identity of his father.

Those with information about Freeman and Dewey's family members are encouraged to contact Freeman at 217-652-5669 or jdewe3@uis.edu.

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