Through Facebook, friends find out they're related


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Posted Online: March 20, 2013, 11:08 pm
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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com
Together they laugh and giggle like schoolgirls with a secret, sister-close in their looks.

Aunt Paula O'Brien is a warm, invite-everyone-to-be-part-of-the-party type. A gifted songstress and a doting mother, she has a media background.

Niece Abbey Donohoe also can sing and act, and she works in the medical field. Like her aunt, she has a sunny-side-up attitude toward life.

Their story is as unique as they are friendly.

A recent Facebook post led Ms. O'Brien, of Davenport, to discover that Ms. Donohoe, of Bettendorf -- whom she met at a party four years ago -- was her niece who had been put up for adoption 29 years ago.

The news floored them both, since they already were friends.

"We met at a function with many of our (Quad-City) Music Guild friends,'' said Ms. O'Brien, a mother of two and a former news reporter at Moline's WQAD-TV. "We hit it off. We are a lot alike, and we look similar. It was great to get to know her. We do look like sisters.''

Ms. Donohoe echoed those sentiments.

"We have the same likes and look as though we are related,'' she said. "Paula is kind and outgoing, someone easy to get along with. I feel I have a similar personality.''

On March 6, Ms. O'Brien, 41, said she made a post on Facebook about her brother putting his first child up for adoption 29 years ago. She incorrectly gave the date as Sept. 19, 1982, and she received a reply from Ms. Donohoe.

"You sure it wasn't 1983? Because that's my birthday, and I was adopted. ... Crazy!" Ms. O'Brien said of the post Ms. Donohoe wrote.

A private Facebook message with the names of Ms. Donohoe's birth parents revealed the truth: Ms. Donohoe is Ms. O'Brien's niece.

Since the two learned they are aunt and niece, life has been a whirlwind.

On Wednesday, they were at Bettendorf's American Hair salon, getting primped and pampered for today's taping of the "Anderson Cooper Live" TV show. They were featured on "The Today Show" this past week, and they flew to New York for the "AC Live" taping on Wednesday. The segment will air April 29.

"I called my sister and told her I think I found our niece,'' Ms. O'Brien said, as American Hair general manager Kear Lonergan trimmed and styled her locks. Ms. Lonergan donated her time and efforts to help prepare Ms. Donohoe and Ms. O'Brien for their "AC Live" appearance.

"Thing is that Abbey -- an only child -- had always known about being adopted, but just six months ago learned the names of her birth parents,'' Ms. O'Brien added. " We told my mother, who is coming to the Quad-Cities on Friday to meet Abbey, and she was over the top with joy.''

Ms. O'Brien said she contacted her brother, Ms. Donohoe's birth father, and shared the news with him. He lives in Tennessee, and he was excited and grateful to know his birth daughter had been located and that life has been good for her, Ms. O'Brien said.

"He made an unselfish move at age 19, when he was not ready to be married or to be a father,'' Ms. O'Brien said. "He understands that now, but it was hard for him for many years. He shared the news with his family, and him having a great wife and three great kids, they thought it to be wonderful. They went out and celebrated. This is all a positive, everything about this.''

Ms. Donohoe said she knows the day will come when she will meet her birth father, and she is ready for it.

"Logistically, it will not be soon, but I'm excited to meet him,'' she said. "I have had a great life, great parents, normal upbringing by people who love and care for me. Finding out I have another family -- a large and caring family -- is only a bonus. And to have Paula -- someone I knew and liked -- is an amazing bonus.''

When the attention of the story slows, Ms. O'Brien and Ms. Donohoe will remain close.

"We've always observed her birthday, always had plans to find her,'' Ms. O'Brien said of her niece. "I knew she was out there. And she looks like me. This is amazing. My heart and the hearts of many are warmed on so many fronts. I left the news business because of the negative stories you have to bring to light, and now I get to be part of a positive one. It's amazing.''

Ditto from Ms. Donohoe.

"I cannot explain it other than it was meant to happen,'' she said.





















 




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