JAY COPP 0000-00-00 00:00:00
For 20 years Karin Antonacci searched for her five adopted sisters and a brother. Her quest was difficult because her birth mother, who lived and died in Germany, moved nearly every year and had her children with different fathers. But a chance encounter with a helpful Lion at the international convention in Chicago in 2007 has reunited her with her siblings, brought her fame on German TV and given her some sense of closure and purpose after a lifetime of questions and frustration. “It was meant to be,” says Antonacci, a clerk at Lions Clubs International headquarters in Illinois. “My husband [Tom] says this is like if I dropped a pebble somewhere in the world. I won’t tell you where it is. But you have to find it.” Antonacci, 52, was adopted from a German orphanage and grew up in Germany. She moved to the United States in 1976 after marrying a U.S. soldier. (Tom is her second husband.) She knew from her adoption records she had a sister. When she began contacting city halls in Germany (residents are required to register and list dependents), she traced her birth mother’s frequent moves from one town to the next and gradually discovered she had other siblings. Antonacci’s best lead was on a sister named Barbara. She knew Barbara’s family was from Ford City, Pennsylvania, but could not track her down. The trail grew cold because the adopted mother had remarried after her husband died in a car accident. Antonacci began working at LCI in 2001. The convention in Chicago was the first one she worked. There she met Don Neff, an incoming district governor from Pennsylvania. Ford City was in his district. Even better, Neff’s mentor, Past District Governor Jack McGaughey, knew just about everyone in town. Neff called McGaughey, who knew a Zanetti, the maiden name of the adopted mother. A few phone calls led to the two halfsisters embracing in a hotel room in Akron, Ohio. “How do you describe something like that? It was heartwarming. It was exciting,” says Antonacci. Newly encouraged, Antonacci stepped up her efforts to find her other siblings. Her youngest sister, Marion, 40, had not been given up for adoption and was still in Germany. The German media learned of the story, and a TV show arranged for Antonacci’s reunion with Marion and assisted her in finding her other siblings–Frank in New York, Monika in Kentucky and Stefanie in Germany. “You know how people say everyone has a purpose in life? I think this is my purpose,” she says. Ruth Weiske, the mother, died in 1994 from cancer. She worked as a cleaning lady at U.S. military bases and U.S. soldiers apparently fathered her children. She never told Marion she had siblings. There is “no explanation” for her life, says Antonacci. “At least she gave us a second chance [through adoption],” she says. Antonacci talks on the phone often with Marion and her other siblings, forging a sisterly bond after nearly 40 years apart. Antonacci continues to search for possible other siblings. Antonacci met up again with Neff at the convention in Minneapolis. The two hugged warmly and exchanged small talk. “He’s such a great guy,” she says. “I didn’t really do much,” say Neff. “I hope this story shows that being a Lion is not only fundraising and projects but also an avenue for helping in ways I couldn’t even believe myself.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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