Sisters bridge 45-year gap with reunion Letters, wedding spark trans-Atlantic reunion of 2 sisters.

August 22, 1991|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Evening Sun Staff

During World War II, Doris Hansford left her native England to begin life anew with her American husband.

She knew an ocean would separate her from her parents and siblings.

She never imagined for how long.

After she arrived in America, Hansford busied herself with taking care of her husband and her home in Baltimore, and raising six children. She didn't have time to correspond with the family she left behind, she said.

But 45 years later, after the deaths of her parents, several brothers, one of her children and, just recently, her husband, Hansford began to value her remaining family -- including those she has not seen since the dawn of World War II.

Yesterday, Hansford, 68, who now lives with one of her daughters in Edgewood, stood in a glass and tile corridor at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a plane from Amsterdam that carried her older sister, Bessie Finch, and her niece, Elizabeth.

"When my sister Bessie and I started writing letters to each other two months ago, we decided she should come over for my granddaughter's wedding," said Hansford as she eyed every passenger that walked through the doors leading from the customs area to the waiting lounge.

"Bessie sent me a picture of herself in one of her letters," she said. "I'm trying to place her face in my mind because I didn't bring the picture with me."

Two of Hansford's daughters, a son-in-law, and two of her grandchildren came with her to offer support during the 45-minute wait and to witness the reunion.

Jo Anne Sordillo, one of Hansford's daughters, held her mother's hand for most of the wait. "We are going to have a family reunion in England next year," she said.

"I'm so excited for my mother-in-law," said Michael Sordillo, a shipfitter for the Coast Guard. "This is a good day for her. We're just trying to keep her calm."

"After all of this is over, we are going to go home, have a nice dinner, talk and let Bessie and Elizabeth rest," said Anita Sordillo, whose wedding this Saturday sparked her grandmother's reunion with her sister.

Melissa Mertz, Hansford's 11-year-old granddaughter, yelled "no" and "nope" to every passenger who was not her grand-aunt or cousin while her mother, Mary Ann, positioned herself with her camera.

The anticipation soared twice as the family mistook other passengers for Bessie and Elizabeth Finch.

When the Finches finally made their appearance, Hansford recognized her sister immediately. She ran to her, hugged her and the two showered each other with kisses and tears.

"Remarkable," Bessie Finch, 76, said through her tears. "My sister and I have much talking to do and many memories to go over. I am so overwhelmed," she said as she beamed at her younger sister.

"My mother always talked about Doris. I grew up knowing her," Elizabeth Finch said. "I don't know the rest of her family, but I have two weeks to find out."

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