Share This Page

Alabama man reunited with New Castle family 68 years after adoption

| Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 7:41 p.m.

NEW CASTLE — A simple letter changed the life of a New Castle family and the relative they never knew they had.

Gathering for their annual family reunion on Sunday afternoon in Cascade Park, the Natale family welcomed a few new members into their circle. They included 68-year-old David Howard, a resident of Tuscaloosa, Ala., who met his New Castle relatives for the first time.

Given up for adoption as a child, Howard grew up in Alabama unaware of his Natale relations, until his daughter, Amy Duncan, began doing research.

When her father was diagnosed with diabetes, Duncan thought it was more important than ever to learn about their family history.

“My husband and I and my brother and his wife, we all have kids and we wanted to know what kinds of things and information can we hand down to them,” Duncan said. “This was before ancestor Internet searches, so I did random searches, picking Natale names to send letters to.”

Her letters explained her search with a brief background on her father and a request for more information if the recipient had any.

One such letter found its way to the right Natales.

“Amy Duncan sent out 15 letters dated back to 1999,” said Fran Natale, Howard's cousin. “My brother in Pittsburgh got one and gave it to me because he didn't know what to do with it.

“A lot of things went on after that with my family and the letter got lost somewhere. Two years ago, I contacted his daughter after finding the letter during home renovations.”

Working together, Duncan and Natale used a cousin working in the Lawrence County Treasurer's Office to petition a judge and unseal the adoption papers, revealing Natale's relation as cousin to Howard.

Meeting for the first time, the two families saw each other as old friends, their years apart not apparent.

“I didn't know my daughter had written the letter,” Howard said. “I was surprised and glad she did. After 68 years, I finally get to meet (my family). Everybody is so nice and I'm so tickled to meet them.”

Howard is unsure whether he would have pursued the answer to his birth family himself, but he's “glad that Amy did.”

Bringing his wife, Gayle, along for the trip, Howard spent the day with his birth family for the first time.

“For 35 years, I've wondered about his family,” Gayle Howard said. “It feels like we've known each other always.”

Even during the day's celebration, David Howard was looking toward the next Natale family reunion and where to go from here.

“I intend to keep up,” David Howard said. “The Internet might make it easier, but my son called and we're already planning our visit for next year.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.