By Sarah Rafique

Killeen Daily Herald

When Karen Nevin's brother called her on April Fools' Day to say her birth sisters were looking for her, she didn't believe him.

"When my brother called me, I thought, 'There's no way I'm calling someone back (on April Fools' Day,)'" said the Killeen resident. "I waited, slept on it and called first thing in the morning."

Nevin, who was adopted 45 years ago, was glad she returned that call as she was reunited with two of her four siblings Saturday at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin.

"There isn't a word in the English language (that can explain how it felt)," Karen said, who grew up within 30 miles of siblings she never knew in Illinois. "I'm still speechless. It's not going to hit me for a while."

The sisters immediately started crying once they realized they found one another and again when they met in person for the first time.

"It's like when you make a cake without salt and it tastes funny," said Karen of life without her siblings. "Now we have the whole recipe."

Kathy Oliver wanted to respect their mother and didn't start searching for Nevin until after her death in 2004. After searching on and off for eight years, she finally had a breakthrough.

All Oliver knew was Nevin's date of birth. While searching for her sister, Oliver came in contact with someone who confirmed there was only one baby girl born at the hospital her mother gave birth at. Although she did not have her sister's name, she had the adopted family's surname and started searching the Internet.

"On March 30, (Oliver) called me and said she found our sister," said Barb Kledzik, who met Nevin at the airport Saturday with their sister, Connie Lumpkins. "I had a lot of concerns. My biggest concern is what if this girl does not know she's adopted. ... All I could do is pray that she had a happy life growing up."

Nevin did have a happy childhood and parents who never hid the fact that she was adopted.

"My parents just said that (my birth mother) loved me enough to give me a better home," said Nevin.

Her birth mother was working to support herself and her four children.

"She didn't have any way to care for an infant," said Kledzik. And, when the relationship she was in suddenly ended, the single mom decided to put Nevin up for adoption.

Kledzik said her mother pulled her aside in her early 20s to let her know she had a sister who was adopted.

"It was never spoken of (after that)," she said.

Growing up in an era before computers and in a state that had locked records, Nevin had difficulty searching for her birth mother. She moved to Killeen in 1996 and tried a few expensive methods in her search, all of which were unsuccessful.

"I literally gave up, probably around the 2000s," said Nevin, who was glad her sisters didn't give up the search.

In the months leading up to the reunion, the siblings ran up their phone bills with hours of calls and text messages and shared numerous photos on Facebook.

"It's wonderful," said Nevin. "It really is the best thing for me."

The three said the reunion reinforced the fact that they want to be a part of each other's lives.

Kledzik and Lumpkins only allowed themselves 12 hours to connect with Nevin and headed back to Illinois Saturday evening but plan on staying in touch and spending the holidays together if their schedules allow it.

"If I die tomorrow, I would die happy," said Lumpkins.

Contact Sarah Rafique at (254) 501-7549.

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