Minka Disbrow celebrates 100th birthday with daughter she gave up for adoption

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ByDaily Mail ReporterUpdated: 23:19 GMT, 2 January 2012For almost a century, Minka


<ul><li><p>Minka Disbrow celebrates 100th birthday with daughter shegave up for adoption</p><p>ByDaily Mail Reporter</p><p>Updated: 23:19 GMT, 2 January 2012</p><p>For almost a century, Minka Disbrow tried to find out what became of the baby girl she gave up foradoption after being raped as a teenager.</p><p>She hoped, but never imagined, that she would see her daughter Betty Jane again. Her onlyconnection to the child was a black and white photograph of the baby bundled up in blankets shortlyafter she was born.</p><p>Then in 2006, Mrs Disbrow, who turned 100 years old at the end of last month, received a call fromBrian Lee who turned out to be her grandson. He then asked if she'd like to speak with Betty Jane -whose name was now Ruth Lee.</p><p>Backtogether: 100-year-old Minka Disbrow (right) is reunited with her daughter Ruth Lee in Californiaafter being separated for 77 years</p><p>Mrs Disbrow, the daughter of Dutch immigrants, had a tough childhood milking cows on SouthDakota dairy farms. In 1928 while enjoying a summer's picnic with girls from a sewing class, the girland her friend Elizabeth were jumped by three men and both girls were raped.</p></li><li><p>She said: 'We didn't know what to do. We didn't know what to say. So when we went back, nothingwas said.'</p><p>When it was discovered she was expecting, her mother and stepfather sent her to a Lutheran homefor pregnant girls. At 17, she gave birth to a blonde-haired baby and named her Betty Jane.</p><p>She was told she couldn't bring an infant back to the farm and at the time, a pastor and his wifewere looking to adopt a child. She hoped they could give Betty Jane the home she couldn't.</p><p>Neverforgotten: Minka Disbrow was raped when she was 16 and gave birth to a baby girl who she namedBetty Jane and gave up for adoption</p><p>Ms Disbrow said: 'I loved that baby so much. I wanted what was best.'</p><p>She never met the couple or knew their names. But over the years, Mrs Disbrow wrote dozens ofletters to the adoption agency to find out about her daughter. The agency replied faithfully withupdates until there was a change in management and they lost touch.</p><p>Mrs Disbrow went on to marry a fruit salesman and they had two children. She worked as adressmaker, silk saleswoman and school cafeteria manager across the country from Rhode Island toMinnesota and Northern California before moving to the seaside town of San Clemente an hour'sdrive from San Diego.</p><p>Every year, she thought about Betty Jane on her daughter's birthday, May 22. Five years ago, MrsDisbrow prayed she might get the chance to see her.</p></li><li><p>Accomplished: Minka Disbrow shows off an shows an autographed photo of her grandson Mark Lee,space shuttle astronaut, at her home in San Clemente, California</p><p>'Lord, if you would just let me see her,' Mrs Disbrow remembered praying. 'I promise you I willnever bother her.'</p><p>On July 2, 2006, she received a phone call from a man in Alabama. He started asking the elderlywoman about her background. Worried about identity theft, Mrs Disbrow refused to answer anyquestions. Then, the man asked if she'd like to speak with her daughter Betty Jane - whose name wasnow Ruth Lee.</p></li><li><p>Celebration: Minka Disbrow's 100th birthday card fromher long-lost daughter takes pride of place in her Californian apartment</p><p>Mrs Lee had been raised by a Norwegian pastor and his wife and had gone on to marry and have sixchildren.</p><p>One of her son's is the astronaut Mark Lee, a veteran of four space flights who has circled the world517 times.</p><p>Mrs Less had always known she was adopted and grew up a happy child.</p><p>It wasn't until she was in her 70s that the search for her biological parents began.</p><p>Mrs Lee started suffering from heart problems and doctors asked about the family's medical historywhich she knew nothing about it.</p><p>Her son, Brian, decided to try to find out more and petitioned the court in South Dakota for hismother's adoption records.</p><p>He was given 270 pages including a written account of his grandmother's rape and handwrittenletters from a young Mrs Disbrow, asking about her baby.</p><p>Mr Lee went online to try to find one of Mrs Disbrow's relatives - possibly through an obituary.</p><p>Brian Lee, 54, said: 'I was looking for somebody I thought was probably not living.'</p><p>He typed Mrs Disbrow's name into a web directory and was shocked when a phone listing poppedup. 'I kind of stopped breathing for a second,' he said.</p><p>On the phone with her biological daughter, Mrs Disbrow was in disbelief - especially when she was</p></li><li><p>told the accomplishments of her grandchildren.</p><p>A month later, Ruth Lee and her son Brian flew to California. They arrived at her biological mother'sapartment with a gigantic bouquet of flowers.</p><p>Mrs Disbrow couldn't get over how similar her daughter's hands were to her own while Mrs Lee wasamazed at the women's similar taste in clothing. They pored over family photo albums and caught upon the years they had missed.</p><p>Mrs Disbrow said: 'It was just like we had never parted. Like you were with the family all your life.'</p><p>Since then, the families have met numerous times. Mrs Disbrow has gone to visit grandchildren andgreat-grandchildren in Wisconsin and Texas. She is planning to travel to Alabama in the spring,where they will celebrate her recent 100th birthday.</p><p>Mrs Lee, now 82, said: 'It has been such a surreal, amazing experience that I still think sometimesthat I will wake up and it will just be a beautiful dream.'</p><p>Mrs Disbrow's daughter Dianna Huhn, 55, of Portland, Oregon, said the reunion has filled a void forher mother.</p><p>Mrs Huhn added: 'I have never seen my mother as happy.'</p><p>Share or comment on this article</p></li></ul>