Betty Morrell met her mother for the first time in 82 years on January 15, 2016. Her mother, Lena Pierce, had given birth to her at age 13 on February 11, 1933. But six months later, the State of New York took the baby and made her a ward of the state. Betty Morrel was adopted from a family in Long Island. When she finally met her mother again, she was 82 years old and Pierce was 96 years old.

“It was like the beginning of my life,” Morrell said. She had searched for her mother for the previous 50 years. She finally met her at Greater Binghamton Airport.

When Lena first gave birth, she named her daughter Eva May but Betty grew up with the name her adoptive parents gave her.

“One day a neighbor kid came up to me and said, ‘You know you’re adopted, right?’” she said. “I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked my mom, who explained everything by saying I was chosen by them and very special. My family made me feel so comfortable that I didn’t even think about the fact I was adopted until I was in my twenties.” [1]

When her mother confirmed her adoption, she also told Morrell that her biological mother had died years ago. “I understand why she said that,” Morrell said. “She didn’t want me to look.” And it worked. Morrell didn’t try to find Pierce until 1966. Until then, she was very happy with her family. But when her adoptive mother passed away, Morrell’s aunt spilled the beans. She told Morrell her name once was Eva May and she was born in Utica, New York

So the search began. “I know I was loved and had a wonderful family. There was that missing link. It just kept driving me,” Morrell said. She started to write letters to all the hospitals in Utica. She got responses from one who had records of two births from February 11, 1933. One was a boy and one was a girl named Eva May. However, adoption agencies were less forthcoming with help because of Betty’s closed adoption. “Back in those days you couldn’t get any information,” she said.

Read: 23-Year-Old Single Woman Adopts 13 Kids to Devote Her Life to Them, Births Her Own Baby Soon After

Eventually, Morrell gave up. She focused on raising a family of her own in Long Island then moved to Florida. Her granddaughter Kimberly Miccio would visit her during summer vacation and she heard all about Morrell’s search for her birth mother. Miccio connected to this story, especially because her own mother was adopted. So at age 12, Miccio helped her grandmother restart the search, a process that continued for over 20 years. “She knew I really wanted to find my mother,” Morrell said. [2]

At last, they had a breakthrough in September 2015. Miccio found a distant relative of Morell through who put her in touch with Millie Hawk, a daughter of Pierce. When Morrell heard, she was overjoyed. She found her mother, and a sister she never knew she had. Later on, she learned she actually has two brothers and four sisters.

Then Hawk informed Pierce that she had found Eva May. The mom burst into tears. When Morrell called on the phone, Hawk answered, the two sisters got along right away. In fact, Miccio had to remind her grandmother that this call was to talk to Pierce. And once she got on the phone “we had such a connection,” Morrell said. “It was just everything I ever hoped for.”

Pierce had tried to find Morrell as well but never succeeded. “She never stopped thinking about her,” Hawk said. “She would always say, ‘My Eva May.’” And finally, they reunited at the airport.

The mother and daughter stayed close since that day. Pierce struggled with memory due to her age, so Morrell sometimes had to remind her that she was Eva May. She had found her biological family. “I’m not alone anymore,” Morrell said. “I have my mother, and I have sisters and brothers. It’s surreal but so wonderful to be together again after all this time.” [3]