Real People Stories

Separated at Birth

UPDATED 05/05/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/05/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

Gerald Levey & Mark Newman
Both New Jersey firefighters, they first met at 32

For years friends kept spotting them in places they had never been. When Newman was a kid, a relative accused him of playing truant in New York City. Levey was once affectionately greeted by one of Newman's cousins, who insisted upon calling him Mark. But no one was more confused than their firefighter pals in New Jersey, where both men were lieutenants at different stations 65 miles apart. Finally, in 1985, colleagues of Newman's met Levey at a firefighters convention and, struck by their similarities, arranged for the two men to meet. "I thought, 'What's my bald head doing on his shoulders?' " recalls Newman. The pair, now 49, discovered shared passions for beer, John Wayne movies, professional wrestling and the Three Stooges. Both knew they were adopted, but while Levey's parents had kept his twin a secret, Newman's mother and father hadn't known. They were stunned when he and Levey turned up at their home on the same day. "I was hoping I'd win the lottery," says Newman. "But he'll do for now."

Tamara Rabi & Adriana Scott
After constantly mistaking one for the other, friends put two and two together and arranged a reunion

Within weeks of showing up for her freshman year at Long Island's Hofstra University nearly three years ago, strange things started happening to Tamara Rabi. Strangers would smile and wave at her, then walk away peeved when she told them she didn't know them. "They must have thought I was crazy," says Rabi, 20. "Sometimes they'd ask me, 'Do you have a twin sister?' And I'd say, 'No.' "

Just down the road at Adelphi University, Adriana Scott kept hearing similar questions about her dead ringer at Hofstra. Nudged by friends, the young women got in touch by e-mail and discovered they both had been born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and adopted. Then Adriana's mother, Diana Scott, dropped a bombshell: When she and her late husband Peter, a vice president at Dahill-Mayflower Moving Company, adopted her, they knew she had a twin who at the time was unavailable for adoption. Adriana's discovery "was a moment I'd dreaded for 20 years," says Diana, 60, a receptionist. While the Scotts raised Adriana as a Catholic in the Long Island suburbs, Tamara's adoptive parents, Yitzhak and Judy Rabi, who didn't know she was a twin, brought her up as a Jew in Manhattan. "My family was very cautious," says Tamara, who learned about Adriana shortly after Yitzhak had died of cancer at age 58. "Even after they saw her photo, they had doubts. I was like, 'C'mon, guys, the picture looks exactly like me!' " Late last year the girls agreed to meet on neutral ground—at a local McDonald's—and discovered that practically the only noticeable difference between them was a small birthmark above Tamara's right eyebrow. "Her voice was what got me," says Adriana. "I just sat there in shock." Even their mothers had trouble telling them apart.

Since then the reunited twins and their widowed moms have formed a close bond, and recently they took a spa vacation together at Arizona's plush Canyon Ranch resort. "Tamara's sister could have been anyone in the world, but it turned out to be this wonderful girl," says Judy, 56. Adds Tamara: "It's like I'm starting a whole new life. For 20 years I haven't had a sister, and now I do."

Steven Tazumi & Thomas Patterson
Two Japanese—American brothers find each other-and a lasting friendship

Steve Tazumi was raised as a Buddhist in suburban New Jersey, and his brother Tom is a Christian from rural Kansas, but they have one church in common: "The gym," says Tazumi, 44, "it's in our blood." A personal trainer who competed in the 1980 Olympic weight-lifting trials, Tazumi knows he can always get a spot from Patterson, an oil-well worker and former competitive power lifter who once owned a fitness center. Separated and sent to an orphanage on the Japanese island of Kyushu after their mother committed suicide (little is known about their biological father), the boys grew up with each of them knowing he had a twin. Though their records were lost in an orphanage fire, Tazumi eventually discovered his brother's surname. With help from friends he then combed the Internet looking for a name match and sent flyers to hundreds of likely families named Patterson. In 1999 one letter reached Patterson's adoptive father. The brothers met soon after and have been close ever since, speaking two or three times a week. "It's been nice to have someone to lean on who understands you," says Patterson. "We connected from the first time we met because we're so much alike."

Mary Joy Olena & Mary Ann Lopez
After growing up on opposite sides of the Pacific, they try to bridge the gulf together in the U.S.

As Amy Olena tells it, she was growing up in the Philippines when she was raped in 1976 at age 13 and became pregnant. She didn't know she was bearing twins, and shortly after their birth, she says, a relative sold one girl, Mary Ann, to an obstetrician for $200. When the doctor's wife died six years later, Mary Ann was passed on to another family, who treated her as a servant. Meanwhile the other girl, Mary joy, was living happily with her mother. In 1984 Amy married a U.S. seaman, and in 1990 they moved to California. In America Mary Joy excelled at school but was haunted by a recurring dream. "There was a little girl trying to grab my hand," she remembers, "but I could never reach it."

Then, in 1993, Amy says, she was shocked to learn about Mary Ann from a relative. But after a blood test indicated she was the girl's mother, she brought her to America. Mary Ann has always doubted her mother's story—she had been told she was abandoned—and didn't get along with her twin. "My sister had it easier," says Mary Ann, now 25, a nursing home aid and a separated mother of four small children. "Sometimes I would ask her, 'Why did Mom pick you? Why not me?' " The years since their reunion have been difficult. But recently Mary Joy, a college student in Cedar Lake, Ind., visited Mary Ann and her daughters at her home in Marion, Va., where the sisters found the beginnings of a friendship. "As we grow older, some of that jealousy goes away," says Mary Ann. "Each time I see her, I understand her a little bit better, and we grow a little closer."

Stephanie Ubaudi & Marti Botsch
After 38 years, twins discover each other and an instant family

When she set out to find her birth mother in 1995, Botsch had no idea what she was in for. First, the social worker called to say she had found not only her mother but her father too. Plus, they were married and had six children. "I remember dropping the phone and crying," says Botsch, now 45 and living in Newburgh, Ind. There was more. Days later the social worker called back to say Botsch had a twin: "I just lost it. I was in a state of shock.

In 1956, 17-year-old Gloria Boone became pregnant by her high school sweetheart Joe Baum in East St. Louis, 111. Joe was already serving in the Army, and Gloria's family, devout Catholics, sent her to a home for unwed mothers. There she gave birth Stephanie and Marti meet every month. prematurely to twins who were meant to be adopted but weighed just 3 lbs. each. "I didn't get to hold them," says Gloria, who went home not knowing their fate. "I thought they were going to die." In 1958 she married Joe, and they went on to raise a family in Lenzburg, Ill., keeping the twins a secret. Still, says Gloria, "they were always in my heart."

Meanwhile the twins were growing up with different families, a day's drive away, in southern Illinois. For a brief time Ubaudi even attended the same church as the Baums. When the sisters finally met at a restaurant in 1995, they both turned up wearing green arid toting the same gift—a refrigerator magnet with a message about sisters. "We just kept touching each other to see if the other was real," says Ubaudi, a bar owner from Collinsville, 111. "We kept jumping up and down and hugging and kissing." Since then they have spoken almost daily. Botsch, a nurse and divorced mother of two, was maid of honor at Ubaudi's '00 wedding, and both have grown close to their other siblings too. For Gloria their return was a dream: "It was like they had pulled a thorn out of my heart."

J.D. Heyman
Lynda Wright in Long Island and New Jersey, John Slania in Chicago and Noah Isackson in Lenzburg

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