Emotional meeting for long-lost family

A MOTHER has told of her “overwhelming” joy as she embraced the first member of the long-lost family she once feared she would never find.

Annie Davidson

A MOTHER has told of her “overwhelming” joy as she embraced the first member of the long-lost family she once feared she would never find.

The emotional scene took place at Heathrow Airport as Gina Dawson and her aunt Connie Pappas met for the first time.

It marked the end of a long search by 47-year-old Gina, who learnt that the man she believed was her dad was not her biological father on her 21st birthday.

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Gina's mother, Margaret, had been swept off her feet by Greek American serviceman Constandinos Pappas when he was based at RAF Bentwaters, near Woodbridge.

Margaret fell pregnant and the pair were due to marry when Constandinos disappeared with no explanation.

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She later wed another GI David Conley, who Gina believed was her real father until the secret was revealed on her milestone birthday.

For many years Gina, who lives near Bury St Edmunds, made efforts to trace her father and the large family he had talked to Margaret about.

Her efforts finally came to fruition this year when using the family history website ancestry.co.uk she traced a cousin of her father, who forwarded her email to Connie, the sister of Gina's father.

The pair had an emotional telephone conversation and then began exchanging letters, photos and emails as they pieced the past together.

As well as a huge extended family, many of whom she was soon in touch with, Gina also had two new brothers and a sister to add to the two brothers and two sisters from her existing English family.

Sadly she was too late to meet her father who died at the age of 38 after being stung by a swarm of hornets as he worked in a garden.

On Friday, she and Connie finally met face-to-face after the American flew from her home in California to attend a surprise birthday party for Gina's mother.

“It was just so emotional, we were both overwhelmed with emotions,” said Gina, who has two children, Samuel, 21, and Alexandra, 19.

“I was crying before I even saw her. It was simply wonderful.”

Connie said: “I just cried when I saw her, she looks so like my mother who passed away when we were very young.

“We never knew about what had transpired. Apparently the military didn't like the American servicemen getting involved with the (local) girls.”

Happy Gina said the pair had “talked, talked and talked” since Friday and they are now travelling to visit friends of Connie's in Leeds.

But the big get-together is set for Thanksgiving in November when Gina and some of her relatives will travel to California to meet many of their huge extended family.

Poignantly, she will also visit her father's resting place at the family tomb in Sacramento, California.

Gina said: “I am so looking forward to that whole couple of weeks and I understand it is just going to be phenomenal with family coming in from everywhere to meet us.

“I never thought I would find my real father or his family and I am just so lucky - if I could have written a wish list, I have got that and more.

“They are a lovely, lovely family and so are my family in England.

“There are thousands of GI children out there, wanting to find their fathers, and I hope my story will give hope that it is possible.”


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