71-year-old Preston man reunited with the sisters he never knew he had
It's not everyday you meet the long lost brother you never knew you had on the other side of the world.
But that’s what happened to Fran Schultz and Connie Bonise who travelled all the way from Canada to Preston to meet their older brother who had been adopted as a little boy.
For the majority of his life all Alan Niven, a retired hospital porter from Ingol, knew about his background was that he was from Canada and he was adopted.
It was only when he saw a television show, Long Lost Family, that he decided to try and find out more about his birth family.
“I didn’t know anything,” said Alan, who came over to the UK with his adoptive parents when he was five and is now 71. “All I knew is that I had been adopted.”
“It was watching Long Lost Family and seeing what that does for people that prompted me to look into it.
“I’m so glad I did. The Adoption Council of Canada wrote back to me and told me that I had siblings from my birth mum and it just went from there.
“I wasn’t told as to why or how. From what I can gather my adoptive dad was Canadian. My mum must have met him in Canada and then we came over to England.”
Now Alan has just spent an amazing weekend with his sisters Fran, 60, and Connie, 68, from Alberta and British Columbia respectively, showing them around Lancashire.
Looking back to three years ago when they first discovered that they had a brother who had been adopted Connie, said: “My brother Tony in Grand Prairies heard about it first.
“He just told me that he had some news and we had brother, that he lived in England and he’d been adopted out when he was very young.
“It took awhile for that to sink in, it was little bit of a shock, it’s a lot to process when you get information like that.
“I’m 68 years old and to find out now that I have a brother that I never got a chance to know, it was pretty emotional.”
Alan discovered that his birth parents were called Blanche Inscho and Joseph Vonise and that altogether he had six siblings in Canada. As well as Fran and Connie he had three brothers, Joseph, 65, Antonio, 63 and Kevin, 53.
He also discovered that he was not the only one in the family to be adopted. He has a sister, Doreen.
Fran said: “We also have a sister that had been given up for adoption as well and she had found us about 20 years before this. I mean there could be more.”
Connie said: “A lot of things went through our minds, we wondered what Alan was like.
“We thought about how my mum and dad must have felt having to give this baby up to adoption and wishing that while they were alive they would have felt comfortable to talk to us about it so that we could have gotten more information from them but in those days people didn’t talk about such things.”
Growing up neither Fran nor Connie had any idea that they had any a brother and sister who had been adopted.
“If he hadn’t found us we would go to our graves never ever knowing because we wouldn’t have been looking because we didn’t know he was out there,” said Connie, who heard of a charity which could bring her to the UK at her retirement home.
Wish of a Lifetime is in the business of granting wishes to older people and although Connie felt it was a long shot she applied to the charity and now her wish has come true.
Since he first introduced himself three years ago Alan has been able to strike up friendships with his long lost birth siblings.
Connie said: “At first it was just pure joy talking to him, I was so elated, so happy to hear from him. I think that I felt a connection with him almost immediately.
“Since then we’ve phoned each other about every once a week, we send each other birthday cards and Christmas cards. We’ve formed a real relationship.”
Talking of their meeting Connie added: “I couldn’t wait for it to happen after all this time.
“It’s going to break my heart to leave, I’m sorry that our time is going to be so short. He’s a very special person.”
Alan has also been able to meet his brother Tony and his wife who visited a couple of years ago.
He said: “I did ask Tony as to why mum gave me up for adoption and he said no one had a clue. I know she loved me, I knew that it’s just that bringing up the kids that she had, she couldn’t cope.
“They know as much as I do. When I said to him what the reason was that I was adopted he said ‘I honestly don’t know’.
Alan’s adoptive parents Alexander and Evelyn Niven are not around to hear his news but he says his adopted siblings, Mandy, Sally, Colin and Wendy are all very pleased that he’s been able to meet some of his birth family. Along with Alan’s partner Patricia Barton, 75, the three reunited siblings spent five days visiting Preston, Blackpool, Southport and the Lake District.
“I’m really quite thrilled to have seen them, cloud nine,” said Alan. “Given our age I don’t think we’ll see each other again.
“Having said that though we can still keep in touch.
“I only wish I was told this years ago and I could have done more about it.”