WAUKOMIS, Okla. — A Waukomis resident was reaching through her family’s history, when she discovered a special stranger reaching back.
Roxanne Pollard, 66, said she registered with 23andMe.com, a popular ancestry website, to help gather more information about her family.
“I’ve always done my family’s genealogy,” Pollard said. “Many, many years. It’s just an interest I have.”
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Margo Sholtz, 68, was using the same website to find out what nationality she was. She was adopted as an infant and knew little of her biological family.
On Sept. 7, 2019, Sholtz, a hairstylist, decided to share her information with the public. Soon after, the website notified her she had a half-sister. Sholtz sent her a message.
Pollard said when she read the message, she immediately went to her husband who was working outside. Then, she called her brother, Keith Collins. He was more skeptical of the news.
“He thought it was a scam,” Pollard said.
In 1951, Pollard’s father, Howard Collins, attended the University of South Carolina. He was a highly sought-after athlete, playing football and being a Golden Glove boxer. However, Collins wanted to remain close to home and his 14 brothers and sisters. Therefore, he rejected all other college offers.
He met a small-town girl soon after arriving. She was 18 and worked as a secretary for the campus. They started pursuing a relationship.
She became pregnant and returned home to her parents. Because of the stigma that came with being pregnant and unmarried in the 1950s, they insisted she give the baby up for adoption, Sholtz said.
“So, I was kept a secret from everybody.”
The pregnancy also was kept from Collins, who wondered why his girlfriend suddenly disappeared. A second relationship with a student led to marriage. The couple had three children. He died in 2008 without learning about Shultz.
When Sholtz decided to investigate her father’s identity, she turned to the Children’s Bureau of South Carolina. They were unable to give her a name but provided her with key details.
She said she learned her father was a gifted athlete and that he attended the University of South Carolina. Along with the timeline matching, Pollard and Sholtz were convinced that 23andMe had made an accurate connection.
In November 2019, Pollard and her brother drove to Oklahoma City to meet their long-lost sister. Pollard’s other sister, Rhonda Novotny, had finished a surgery at a South Carolina hospital. They waited until after Christmas to tell her, for her to focus on recovery.
Everyone was nervous, Sholtz said. No one knew what to expect. When they finally saw each other, there was an immediate connection.
“It was beautiful, and we started making memories right away," Sholtz said.
The next day, the nieces and nephews joined the gathering. The city was decorated for the holidays, adding to the festivities. They took a horse-drawn carriage ride, went out to eat and visited Santa at Bass Pro Shop.
The siblings planned to meet again in South Carolina, but the coronavirus disrupted travel. It wasn’t until recently they were able to see each other again. This time, it was during the wedding of one of Pollard’s nieces.
Sholtz was introduced to the remaining family and friends, including Novotney. It was significant to her because she grew up in a small family that was disconnected. She said her adopted parents raised her well, and she was grateful to be adopted. Yet, she always felt different and lacked nurturing from her mother, which she said was not her mom’s fault.
“But my father…I was very close with him to a point. They got divorced when I was 13 or 14 and I was very angry. I was like ‘Why did you adopt me and then get divorced?’” she said.
But she says she likes who she is and without them she wouldn’t be who she is.
Now, the family has placed a puzzle piece they didn’t know was missing. They are excited to continue building this relationship, though they are taking their time.
For Sholtz, she said, “It’s completed me, and I’ve always wanted to feel like I belong.”