Mother and daughter reunited after 51 years

Published on December 28, 2012

Colleen McCann sits with her birth mother Olive Antle after 51 years of being apart.  

Amy Woolvett photo

By Amy Woolvett

It was nothing short of a miracle that reunited a mother with her daughter after 51 years of searching.

Colleen McCann was 13-years old when she found out she was adopted.

Despite having a family she loved she knew she needed to look for her birth mother.

McCann’s adoptive father told her he didn’t think that the mother truly wanted to give up her baby, hearing her cry as they left with McCann.  He told his daughter years later, it was like a cry no one had ever heard before.

It was true, Olive Antle, McCann’s birth mother was 20-years old and mother of another young child when she was forced to give up her baby.

Through circumstances she could not control, she was left single and broke with a young child to care for when she found out she was pregnant.

When it was time to have the baby Antle drove from Cape Breton to Halifax.  After McCann was born, Antle kept in the hospital as long as she was able, 10-days so that she could stay with her baby.

Eventually Antle reunited with her husband and they were able to get on their feet again.

She knew once the baby left her arms, that she had made a terrible mistake.

“It was the worst day of my life,” said Antle.

McCann searched everywhere for her birth mother.  From the age of 15 up she looked through adoption records, phoned up every number with her last name in the phone book and asked everyone she met from Cape Breton whether they knew an Olive.

After many years of doing this, it just became a habit to ask a Cape Bretoner this question.

But this past summer, McCann ran into someone from that region and again asked the question that never was far from her mind.

The woman answered that she did know someone with that name and would find out if it might be the same Olive McCann was searching for.

Life went on for McCann and after having some problems running her computer, she finally logged on to find several urgent messages from the visiting woman from Cape Breton.

She had a contact, a cousin of McCann’s from her birth family.  That cousin connected her with a younger brother she didn’t know existed.  McCann learned she had several brothers and a sister and all living in Ontario.

Up until that moment the baby that was given up was a story their mother told often.  Her birth name Mary Elizabeth was carefully written on the family tree and every Christmas an ornament hung on the tree just for her. 

So when the siblings heard their long lost sisters voice early that morning, they could not contain their excitement and starting dancing around the house and attempting to raise their mother out of bed with shouts that her daughter was on the phone.

Antle, confused with the commotion assumed it was her other daughter when she said hello.

“As soon as I said hello I knew,” said Antle.  “It was like listening to an echo her voice was so much like my own.  That was when the tears started flowing.”

The two families Skyped each other over the computer and McCann learned that her mother was searching for her as much as she had been searching for her mother.

But talking over the computer wasn’t enough.  Unfortunately neither family had the funds to be able to pick up and fly to each other.  That is when McCann’s church, the Christ Anglican Church in Shelburne, stepped in to help.

But money was slow to come in.

News coverage of their story hit Windsor, Ontario and minister of a church read the story in wonder.

Their church had written a play for Christmas that was all about two family members, one from Nova Scotia and one from Ontario reuniting after years of being apart.

Once the church found out the story it wasn’t long before together with the Shelburne church they raised enough for three flights.

“Miracles are happening,” said Ed Trevors, minister of the Shelburne church.  “As long as we are open to recognizing them as what they are.”

Then McCann and her two children met their family for the first time.

“When I got there,” said McCann.  “It was like we knew each other our whole life.”

There was no awkwardness; only happiness to find what was missing for so long.

  When it was time to fly back to Nova Scotia Antle decided to fly back one-way with them.

“We are making up for lost time,” she said.  “I’m not losing her again.”

She still needs to fly back to Ontario before she decides how they can stay connected and are once again reaching out to the community to help her get the funds for a plane ticket home.

As they recount this story the happy tears pour down both woman’s faces.

“When she found us was the happiest day of my life,” said Antle.  “I have my daughter back and two beautiful grandchildren.  It took 51 years but now she is back with me.”

There is a fund set up through the church at the Scotia Bank called the Rhuland Reunion fund for anyone wishing to donate.