Each year, the Christmas Emergency Fund benefits an organization that helps our community. This year, the proceeds will go to the York chapter of Not One More.
York Daily Record
In 1947, Mabel Mae Koons fell ill. Her heart was failing and her days were few.
She and her husband, Owen, had five children. The youngest were Patricia – they called her Patsy – and Wayne. Owen was kind of a rolling stone, and with his wife incapacitated with a bad heart, he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to be tied down with all of those kids. Or maybe he thought he couldn’t care for them. Or maybe he thought something else. His family can’t explain it completely.
All they know is that in 1947, he sent Patsy and Wayne off to live with someone else. The elder siblings asked about the whereabouts of their younger brother and sister and were told, according to family, not to worry about it. Owen assured them that everything was OK, that they would be well taken care of.
The other children soon found themselves in foster care or adoptive homes. They weren’t sure how it happened, or how the system worked. They were scattered.
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Donald Koons went to live in an orphanage on the other side of the tracks in their hometown, Sunbury, in north-central Pennsylvania, a small town that hugs the Susquehanna River. The home was not the best. It was across the bridge from town; as you exited the bridge from Sunbury, if you turned right, you wound up in the town dump. Take a right and you encountered a cluster of ramshackle homes at the foot of a mountain.
Don Koons’s dying wish is to be reunited with his younger siblings who were given up for adoption 70 years ago.
It wasn’t a great place to grow up, Don has told his family. The family he lived with was poor and kept animals. Goats and chickens had the run of the house. Don didn’t stay there long, deciding to leave when he was still in his teens. He has lived on his own since he was 15.
He found work where he could, having to work from the time he was 14 or so. Once, he was working on a roof when he spotted a guy walking down the street. The guy walked with a limp, the result of a birth defect that also left his right leg underdeveloped. He also had an underdeveloped right arm.
Don scrambled down the ladder and approached the guy.
“Your name doesn’t happen to be George, does it?”
The guy said it was.
Don asked what his last name was, and the guy answered, “Koons.”
“You’re my brother,” Don said.
Don and his brother stayed in touch. He knew his older sister, Mary. But the rest of the family was scattered. His father didn’t have anything to do with him. He had no idea where his younger siblings were.
His father remarried not long after Mabel died and moved to Reading. Years later, he and George got word that their father was dying, and they went to visit him. Don was about 40 at the time and hadn’t seen or heard anything about his younger siblings for more than three decades. He asked his father on his deathbed, “Where are Patsy and Wayne?”
His father told him not to worry about them, that they were fine. Owen asked his sons to forgive him for breaking up the family and scattering them. George never did. Don did. He tried to understand what had happened. His father was about to be left with five children and just didn’t want to deal with trying to raise five kids on his own. Besides, holding ill will toward his father wouldn’t change anything; it wouldn’t get him any closer to finding Wayne and Patsy.
Owen died in 1980 – leukemia – taking the knowledge of the whereabouts of his two youngest children to the grave, Don’s daughter, Dawn Stahl, said.
Don had his own family by then, six children. He worked at a butcher shop and then at a warehouse for the Rea & Derick pharmacy chain until that closed down. He worked a few other jobs after that before retiring about 10 years ago.
All of those years, he and his brother and sister still wanted to find their younger siblings.
They had no idea where they wound up.
His brother-in-law, Jack Reddinger, his older sister Mary’s husband, was a constable and offered to help. He tried to track down any documents that might have been related to an official adoption, but if they existed, they were destroyed when the Northumberland County courthouse flooded in 1972 during Agnes.
Reddinger tracked down a minister who knew the family and who told him that Owen’s two youngest had been adopted in York. That was all the minister knew. The name Rosenberg was mentioned, but that failed to lead anywhere. George remembered that name being mentioned when his younger siblings left the house, but he didn’t know much more. His sister died six years ago, never being reunited with her younger siblings.
Don’s daughter, wife and grandchildren took over the search. His daughter searched genealogy websites for clues. About eight years ago, she found a posting on one site by a woman named Patricia Koons, who wrote that she was from the Sunbury area originally and that she was trying to find her family. Dawn wrote to the woman through the site’s email system. She never heard anything. The original post was about two years old when Dawn came across it, and she doesn’t know whether the woman had given up her search or whether she had passed away.
In the fall of 2014, Don was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As the disease has progressed, his daughter said, the search has intensified. He is in stage four and doesn’t have a lot of time left. He just turned 77 Nov. 17.
He was hoping to see his young siblings, or at least find out what happened to them, or perhaps meet their children, or grandchildren, before he leaves this world.
“He cries and prays to God that he can find his brother and sister,” Dawn said. “He would love more than anything to see them again. That’s his dying wish, to find his siblings.”
Reach Mike Argento at 717-771-2046 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also of interest, He was a ‘free spirit.’ His family found out he died three years later:
Anthony “Tiger” Smith died in Virginia Beach in 2014. But his family just found out about his death in 2017. The Hagerstown, Maryland, native had moved around and would leave for years at a time – but always returned home.
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