She was 9-months-old when she was left in a vacant St. Louis lot among the weeds, sick and wearing a blue-checked dress and pink sweater.
No one ever claimed Toni DiPina in 1963. It would be 50 years until someone would.
DiPina, now 55, ordered a test from an online ancestry website that eventually led her to find a cousin.
DiPina’s remarkable story, from abandoned and abused foster child to college graduate, mother and ordained minister, was reported by the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
Finding her cousin after so many years of believing she would never find a blood relative, DiPina said, was bittersweet:
“We’re three years apart and I know that if we had known each other when we were kids, we would have been friends. So there’s a lot of emotions. I’m elated but I’ve also had to mourn all the times we could have had.”
Toni DiPina isn’t even her real name. A social worker gave her the name Antoinette Baker. Doctors assigned her a birthday. When a police officer found her, he reported she wasn’t even crying.
Life in the foster care system was difficult. The newspaper reported she would go through 16 social workers and eight homes by the time she was 18. DiPina endured physical and sexual abuse.
But she connected with a family in Massachusetts to become a nanny that offered use of a red jeep and enough freedom to attend college classes.
DePina graduated college, married, had children and now leads the congregation at the United Church of Christ at Northbridge, Mass.
It was a professor at seminary who urged DiPina to try an online DNA kit for $79 to see if she could find any distant relatives. That test connected her with her cousin, Rosetta Awkard, who lives in Columbus, Ohio.
The two women met at St. Louis Lambert International Airport last week.
DiPina’s cousin says she is joining her in solving the mystery as to why a a baby was placed among the weeds in that empty St. Louis lot 53 years ago. Says DiPina:
“I’m not angry at the mother or father who left me. I know they must have had their reasons, but I want to hear that story.”
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