Wednesday, December 17, 2014

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: Alta Mae Slater (1917-1986), The One Who Started All This

[Alta Norville, President of the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society, late 1970's]

I always knew my mom was adopted.  And from the time I was 10 or so I knew the name of her birthmother, Altamae Slater, since my mom had her original birth certificate.  Altamae was an unmarried 29 year-old schoolteacher from Colorado when she had my mom in 1947.  Since she had neglected to sign all the release papers for my mom's adoption, my mom's adopted parents had to track her down to sign them, and I had the letter from the private investigator indicating that over a year later she was now Mrs. Alta Norville and was living in Alton, Illinois.  When I had decided to track down Alta in the mid-1990's I discovered that her last known address was in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Tracking down birthparents, or birth grandparents in this case, is exciting, daunting, and scary.  You don't know if the reunion will turn out well or if it will become a family tragedy.  At the time I just wanted, more than anything else, to know what Alta looked like and get an idea of what kind of person she was.  I knew all about my dad's side of the family, but my mom's side was a blank, and not knowing who her people were (and therefore who MY people were) kept gnawing at me.  At the same time, I knew that my appearance could cause a serious upset in her life.  Nevertheless, my curiosity won out over any fears I had.

So I decided to email the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society first.  I told them that I was looking for Alta Norville and would they have any ideas on tracking her down.  Imagine my complete surprise when they emailed back that Alta Norville was a past President of the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society!  What??!!  No way.  Well, that was easy.

She had died the same day the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up, so there was no chance of meeting her (or upsetting her!).  They promptly mailed me the photocopied picture above as well as several articles and the eulogy given at her funeral.

I'll never forget seeing that face for the first time.  I could see the resemblance immediately.

It's amazing what you can find if you just ask the right people!

© 2014 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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