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"Small talk.

That’s all the young woman thought it to be that Tuesday afternoon in May when, as she cut Bob Stapleton’s hair, she asked if his mother was still alive.

Granted, it was a logical question two days after Mother’s Day, and shouldn’t have been a hard one to answer.

On any other day in Bob’s 60-year life, it might not have been difficult.

But, he knew two realities as he pondered his answer: Bonnie Stapleton, who had adopted him when he was 2, had died in 1984.

He also knew that just a few hours earlier that day, he had spoken, for the first time in his life, to his biological mother.

“Is your mother still alive?”

The question was hanging in the air.

Bob’s blog recounts the moment: “I sat silently for a few seconds and reflected on what all had happened over the past hours and quietly responded, ‘Yes.’”

I’ve known Bob and his family since 1988. That’s when, after having amassed a few years of preaching for churches of Christ in Ohio, Texas and Tanzania, East Africa, he became the preacher at the Paoli Church of Christ. He stayed there until 1994 and then went back to Tanzania and later went to the Arlington, Texas, area, continuing his church work.

I hadn’t known Bob was adopted as a child, but when his Facebook status said a while back that he had spoken with his birth mother for the first time in his life, I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued a few days ago when the status read that he was actually seeing his birth mother for the first time in 60 years.

“Tell me more,” I said when I got Bob on the phone Wednesday.

He shared what I think is a remarkable tale.

Bob was born in Orient, Ohio, on Jan. 18, 1950. “My birth mother was 17 at the time of my birth and it was assumed at that time that she was not capable of taking care of me,” Bob said. “She was married and when her husband found out she was pregnant, he took off. She gave birth to me and I was taken from her.”

Bob was adopted by Willie and Bonnie Stapleton in Ohio. Willie, too, has passed away. Bob came to believe that his birth name was Robert Watt and had used that name when searching for his biological family.

“I was diagnosed two and a half years ago with prostate cancer and some heart disease,” he said. Doctors would ask him about family medical history and he didn’t know the answers. A short time later, he stumbled onto information saying that a person adopted in Ohio before 1976 could petition the courts for adoption records. When he did so, he found that his birth name had, in fact, been Wyatt Robert Papillion. His wife Marcia and their daughter Lisa went back to the Internet and one morning Marcia informed him she had a name and an address for a Rosemary Papillion in Ohio. She believed the woman to be Bob’s mother.

Bob wrote a letter to her, telling her he didn’t intend to insert himself into her life, that he was interested in medical information and that if she didn’t respond to him, he would never contact her again.

On May 10, his cell phone rang; a woman said she was calling on behalf of Rosemary Papillion, and arrangements were made for him to speak with his mother on the phone the next day. He wrote in his blog, “I was on pins and needles the rest of the night and on into the morning.”

The call came to Bob’s cell phone at about 10 a.m.

Rosemary told Bob on the morning of May 11, “I’ve searched for you for 60 years.”

This week, Bob saw his mother for the first time since he was whisked away from her just after his birth. He and Marcia went to her home in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Bob told me, “We had a real good visit. … She sat right beside me for the entire two hours and she kept patting me and hugging me. … When I started to leave, my birth mother told me, ‘I don’t want to let you go.’”

As for the future, Bob said, “Right now, it’s just waiting and seeing what the next step will be.”

In his blog, at;, Bob wrote about some things he’s learned. There he says, “I’ve learned something of a mother’s love. Not long into our conversation, Rosemary said, ‘I love you, Wyatt.’ I looked in desperation to Marcia, seeking an answer in her eyes. I turned back to the phone and quietly said, ‘I love you, too.’”

Times-Mail Staff Writer Roger Moon welcomes comments at 277-7253 or"



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