Adopted 89-year-old man celebrates birthday by uniting with family he never met
A Hauppauge man was adopted when he was a young child, but Saturday, the 89-year-old united with the family he never knew he had.
Irving Atkins celebrated his 89th birthday by meeting his two biological sisters, their children and grandchildren at a big family reunion in Lake Grove.
Shortly after Atkins was born in 1933, he was put up for adoption by his unwed parents.
“They decided early on that they couldn't afford to raise a child. So I found a wonderful family. I was spoiled rotten,” said Atkins.
Atkins says while his adoptive parents gave him a loving childhood, they kept his adoption a secret. He didn't find out he was adopted until he was an adult. He also did not know he had siblings until recently.
“I think he was about 50 years old when he found out. I think his brother let him know…that's when he started the investigation,” said his son Brian Atkins.
Atkins would spend 36 years chasing his birth story, wondering why he didn't have access to his original birth certificate. The breakthrough came in 2019 with the passage of a landmark New York state law that unsealed birth records for adoptees 18 years and older. He said that “lit a fire under me.”
The new law enabled Atkins to get a hold of his original birth certificate and research the names of his natural parents online. He discovered new branches of his family tree -- two blood sisters -- Rhoda and Marilyn living in Levittown.
“It's unbelievable. When we first heard from Irving we didn't believe it, but he had enough information to show that yeah, it's real and he's our brother,” said Atkins’ sister Marilyn Lauer.
“It's a sad situation but a happy situation. I finally found the rest of my family,” his sister Rhoda Giacinto said.
Atkins has a lot of catching up to do with his newly discovered sisters and their extended families.
“I'm feeling joy and happy and can't wait to learn all the names. It's overwhelming,” Atkins said.