Rape Survivor, 100, And Daughter Reunite After 77 Years

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Back in 1928, teenager Minka Disbrow and her friend Elizabeth were on a picnic when they were jumped by three men who raped them. They had absolutely no idea what to do or what to say so they said nothing, going back home in silence. Months passed and Disbrow’s body began to change. Having been told that storks brought children, she had no idea what was going on.

Disbrow had a difficult childhood. Her father died tragically when she was young and her stepfather thought high school was unnecessary. So after 8th grade, she worked at the dairy. When the pregnancy was discovered, her parents sent her to a Lutheran home for pregnant girls. She gave birth to a little girl she wanted desperately to keep. It was not to be. A pastor and his wife adopted little Betty Jane and Disbrow went on to life without her. She did keep a picture of her little girl for the next 77 years. And she wrote letters to the adoption agency to get updates on her little girl. That worked until the agency changed management. Every year, she thought about her Betty Jane on her May 22 birthday.

Disbrow married and had two children. She worked throughout the United States before settling in San Clemente, California.

Five years ago, a man from Alabama called her and started asking her questions. She thought he was trying to steal her identity and began peppering him with questions. Turns out it was her grandson, an astronaut named Mark Lee. His mother is named Ruth Lee and she had a happy childhood in her adoptive family. She married and had six children and only started looking for her biological parents when doctors queried her about her family’s medical history. Her kids tried to find out more.

When they petitioned South Dakota for records, they got a bundle, including a written report of the rape and the handwritten letters Disbrow had sent asking about her baby.

Lee’s children figured they were looking for a mother who had died. So they were shocked when Minka Disbrow’s phone listing popped up.

When Disbrow was able to speak with her daughter, she began to tremble. She was elated that a farm girl with no education could have such accomplished grandchildren.

Lee arrived a month later with a gigantic bouquet of flowers. They marveled at how much they looked like each other and their similar taste. They caught up. In the intervening years, the families have met many times. Disbrow recently celebrated her 100th but she’s gone to visit her grandchildren and even great-grandchildren in Wisconsin and Texas.

And she’s begun sharing her story with the media, which is how we know about it now.

Another Disbrow daughter reports that her mother is as happy as she’s ever seen her.

What a beautiful story about the amazing gift of adoption. That Disbrow learned the good news of her firstborn daughter’s happy and fruitful life is an extra blessing.

If you want to read more about Minka Disbrow, here’s a nice tribute from one of her grandchildren, who calls her “the single most extraordinary person I’ve ever known..” Here’s the original Orange County Register story.