For 21 years, Janet Keall has been searching for her biological mother — a woman who left her on the steps of the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital in 1977 — and at last she found her, three months too late.
“Could we have done anything?” Keall said, fighting back tears, to a captivated audience at the Lester Centre of Arts on Dec. 9.
She named her Sarah, the mother she would never know, to protect her identity. After Prince Rupert, Sarah moved to the Lower Mainland, a five minute drive from where Keall had grown up with her adoptive parents.
The town hall event, that highlighted Keall’s journey, began with an introduction from Mayor Lee Brain, then Keall came out on stage to tell her story.
Janet Keall was in Prince Rupert to reveal the discovery that she finally found the mother who abandoned her as an infant, but she had died three months ago. SHANNON LOUGH/THE NORTHERN VIEW
The Rupert’s Baby social media campaign was launched in April this year, when Keall decided to renew her search one last time. The appeal led her to find her half-brother, Kevin, and half-sister, Kathie Rennie, both proven to be related through DNA testing.
The campaign evolved — the Rupert’s Babies were now looking for their biological mother. They put their DNA into Ancestry.ca, Family Tree DNA and 23andme and in November Rennie found a first cousin, Amy, on the maternal side. However, Amy was adopted.
Then Rennie was connected to her father, Barry, who had no recollection of the mother.
Keall went on a mission to find Amy’s biological mother, as well as her own. In that search, she discovered two more half-siblings, whose names she has also kept anonymous for privacy reasons.
The one sibling, who she calls Rose, only lived for 39 days. She was born with a rare genetic condition and died in the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
As for the potential half-brother, he provided a DNA sample and one week ago, on Dec. 2, Keall got the results.”I was sitting in the exact same room where I opened up those documents 21 years ago and got nothing, and finally I had something. We found her, 99.6 per cent, she is our biological mother,” Keall said and the room broke out into applause.
The news has been a shock to her half-brother, whose name she did not release. Now, Keall said, the four half-siblings can get to know each other and perhaps the three of them can learn more about their biological mother through the brother who was raised by her.
What Keall does know is that her mother had a tough life. “We don’t take it personally,” she said. “She wasn’t a bad person.”
There is still more of the story to be told. Keall plans to write a book and she still wants to search for her biological father.
Janet Keall, with Mayor Lee Brain and Jerrilyn, the mother who adopted her after she was abandoned as an infant in Prince Rupert. SHANNON LOUGH/THE NORTHERN VIEW
Mid-story, before the audience learned that her biological mother had died three months before Keall could meet her, Mayor Lee Brain took the stage. Brain presented Keall’s adoptive mother, Jerrilyn, with an Honourary Rupert plaque to recognize the hard work she has done.
Brain said more than 700 people streamed the event live through CityWest, making it the most streamed event in Prince Rupert.
On Saturday, Keall will also have a meet-and-greet at the Ocean View Hotel at 3 p.m. and then she is taking a few weeks to herself to let it all soak in.