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Ringgold woman to meet her son for the first time in 71 years

Jean Stapp got pregnant at 16 and moved across the country to have the baby 71 years ago. Her parents made her put him up for adoption and keep it secret.
Credit: WRCB

RINGGOLD, Ga. — An 88-year-old woman from Ringgold will meet her son for the first time this weekend.

Jean Stapp got pregnant at 16 and moved across the country to have the baby. Her parents made her put him up for adoption and keep it secret from everyone back home.

Jean’s granddaughter, Donna Afman, submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com in December. The results came back in March and it revealed she had a close relative that she had never heard of. She messaged the man, they got to talking, and realized this man might be her grandmother's son.

Donna asked her grandmother about it, and she told her family the story of what happened 71 years ago.

Jean Stapp has lived in Ringgold her whole life. She grew up a preacher's daughter, so when she got pregnant at 16, it wasn't ideal.

"My mother was so strict, and she didn't want anybody to look down on our family, so we had to go somewhere else to have the baby,” Jean Stapp said.

Jean, her mom, and her mom's friend left for Seattle, everyone back home thinking it was for medical reasons.

Jean had her son and then came right back to Ringgold.

"After I had it, I wasn't allowed to see him," Jean said. "People was there to take him. As soon as he was born, they took him."

Jean never told anyone she had this baby. Not even her husband of 51 years.

Her son's name is Patrick Sherman, and he lives in Washington. Five years ago, he joined ancestry.com to try and connect with his birth mom.

"Hope kind of died down, didn't really think anything would come out of it,” said Adawna Ruthart, Patrick Sherman’s oldest daughter.

He had no success until March.

Jean's granddaughter, Donna Afman, got her results back from ancestry.com and learned she had a close relative named Patrick Sherman.

The two connected. They didn't know how they were related. All Patrick's birth certificate said was Jane Doe Bell.

Donna realized her grandmother's maiden name was Bell. So she called to ask her if she had another son.

"She kind of hmmm, uh, uh, I got a lot of that for a little bit,” said Donna Afman, Jean’s granddaughter.

Jean later told her what happened 71 years ago. She had to keep it a secret all that time. For it to be out in the open now, Jean feels a weight has been lifted off her shoulder.

"Thinking on will I ever see him?" Jean told Channel 3.

More than 70 years later, the mother and son met for the first time over the phone.

"I kept telling Donna 'What am I going to say? What am I going to say when he calls?" Jean said.

"He was so nervous. It was the sweetest, sweetest thing,” Ruthart said. “I had not seen him that happy I don't think ever."

Patrick is flying in town this weekend to meet his mom in person for the first time.

Jean has three other kids who will be there as well.

Patrick has four kids of his own and many grandchildren. They will all come to town in September.

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