After finalizing several adoptions Tuesday morning, Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim thought he was going to a reception to celebrate National Adoption Month.
But the tables turned on the 74-year-old judge as he walked into a surprise party to recognize his legacy as he prepares to retire Dec. 31.Grim’s judge guise faded momentarily as Barbara B. Casey, director of Reading-based A Baby Step Adoption agency, handed him a book featuring pictures and tributes from roughly 50 of the hundreds of forever families he’s helped to form during his 30 years on the bench.”Wow,” Grim said, taking a steadying gulp. “This is awesome. I thought I was going to be able to keep my cool but when you gave me this, I kind of lost it.”As an adoptive parent, Grim has always had a special spot in his heart for helping to connect children with families.”I see these kids being given such a wonderful opportunity in life by these incredible folks that adopt them,” he said.Grim and his wife, Louise, adopted their daughter, Kate, from Korea in 1975. It was a long process, but he still remembers the day she flew into JFK Airport on a 747 with several other children.”We spotted this little girl we just thought was awesome,” he said. “And our names were on her back on safety pins. It was our daughter.”Casey credited Grim with changing the face of adoption, always welcoming diverse families, from same-sex couples to Amish families. She said Grim would read each file and pick out personal details to connect with the families.”He makes every case special and that’s a rare talent,” Casey said.Grim presided over eight finalizations Tuesday, but has three more days of adoptions before he retires.Robert and Jennifer Harris of Hillsdale, N.J., said making 4-month-old Ryan Elizabeth their official daughter was surreal after an adoption journey that began in 2014.”We have a new addition to our Christmas card this year,” Robert said.The couple, who signed on with A Baby Step Adoption, began caring for Ryan when she was born in Pittsburgh, but had to wait a month before they could take her back to New Jersey.”When we saw the New Jersey sign, we were like, oh my goodness, we’re home,” Jennifer said. “She’s here.”The couple and their son, Jack, 9, answered several basic questions before Grim signed off on the adoption. When Robert was asked if he understood Ryan would be his natural daughter in every way, the proud father quickly responded, “She already is.”Mike and Heather Lutz of Mechanicsburg expected a lengthy process when they signed up with A Baby Step in August, but by mid-September were already matched with their daughter, Evie, who was born in Reading.”The stars aligned,” Heather said as she looked down at her sleeping 2-month-old.Mike said they have a great relationship with the birth mother and are still getting used to the phenomenon that their daughter is learning and growing every day.The couple said the adoption was made possible by generous donations to a GoFundMe account that raised $20,000 for “Team Lutz.””This finalization means it’s the end of all our anxieties and worries, and we can finally be parents,” she said. “We can have happiness and enjoy something that many people take for granted.”Wyomissing attorney Susan Denaro has appeared before Grim several times throughout the years, but said the day she adopted her son, Joseph Cullen, in 2000 still feels like yesterday. Now 17, her son is preparing to graduate and will be joining the track team at Duke University next year.”Judge Grim has touched so many lives with the work he’s done on our bench,” Denaro said. “I think he needs to know he’s touched those lives and be reminded that he will be missed.”Contact Stephanie Weaver: 610-371-5042 or firstname.lastname@example.org.