The story of three babies abandoned in Prince Rupert in the late seventies continues this week when Janet Keall returns to visit the city she was born in to host a town hall meeting this Friday.
The Rupert’s Baby Town Hall has been planned for weeks, but this weekend Keall received a major development in her search for her biological parents.
“I’m still going ahead with the town hall but now it’s going to be a major announcement,” she said over the phone on Sunday, Dec. 4.
“I feel it in my heart to really be there and to share this news with the residents of Prince Rupert first.”
The original purpose of the town hall was another attempt to find more information, not through archives, police or health records, but through the memories of people in this community.
Earlier this year, when Keall decided to renew the search for her biological parents through a social media campaign she never expected it would lead her to find two half-siblings — confirmed through DNA testing.
As the search narrowed, Keall decided it was time to present her mission in person to an audience at the Lester Centre of the Arts at 7 p.m.
“The point of the town hall is to get everyone together and for the community to get to know me better and to have a personal touch point with the residents of Prince Rupert,” Keall said over the phone from her home in P.E.I. on Nov. 30.
For those who don’t know the details behind ‘Rupert’s Babies,’ Keall was left on the doorstep of the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital on Oct. 14, 1977. She was healthy, wrapped in a blanket and months later adopted out to a family in the Lower Mainland.
In 1996, Keall began to search for her birth parents but despite the media coverage and her return to Prince Rupert to do some of her own digging, she had no leads.
Flash forward 20 years later, she started the Rupert’s Baby website and social media campaign. The media took hold of the story again and in May she heard from a man with a similar story.
Kevin was left in the Colleen Apartments stairwell on First Avenue West with a note reading that he was born May 20, 1979, healthy, wrapped in a tea towel. After a DNA test proved they were half-siblings, Keall met with Kevin, who wishes to remain anonymous, in Vancouver.
But there was another abandoned baby that Keall learned about — Kathie Rennie, who was left on the doorstep of a home in Seal Cove. The person who left her at 3 a.m. knocked on the door before leaving the healthy infant behind. The woman inside had a six-week old baby and called for an ambulance but never saw the person who left the baby.
DNA results proved that Rennie and Keall are half-sisters. The three siblings have since gone through the process of putting their DNA into Ancestry.ca, Family Tree DNA and 23andme to find out who else they may be connected to.
On Dec. 1 they announced that Rennie had found her biological father — Barry.
“This man, he’s very lovely, and he feels very bad, but he’s had a lot of accidents over the years, a lot of head trauma, work accidents things like that, so he doesn’t remember her (the mother) at all, nothing. It gives us nothing,” Keall said.
On Friday, Lee Brain is co-hosting the town hall event with Keall, and he’s personally splitting the rental costs with her.
He sent Keall a letter of support to her earlier this year and she called him back to thank him. Together, they brainstormed what they could do to deepen the search within the community.
“Her and I built a connection and one of the thoughts that we had was this mystery began in Rupert and perhaps it will be solved in Rupert,” Brain said.
“There might be a lot of people who were here in the 70s and they’re still here and may know more about this story.”
Twenty-one years of searching for her parents and this will be her eighth trip to Prince Rupert. She’s bringing her mother with her, who hasn’t been to the area in 39-years, when she came to pick up her adopted daughter.
At the town hall event, Keall was planning to share unpublished stories with the audience, but all that has changed in the past few days.
“For the first time any of this big news comes out will be on Dec. 9 at the Lester Centre,” she said. “To me it is so incredibly special to do this.”
The Rupert’s Babies Town Hall will take place on Friday, Dec. 9 at the Lester Centre of the Arts, doors open at 6 p.m., and the event starts at 7 p.m., no tickets required. On Saturday, she will also have a meet-and-greet at the Ocean View Hotel at 3 p.m.
For those who want to watch the event at home, CityWest is airing the announcement on Channel 10.