Turn the page, unless you like last chapters first

March 12, 1995

Readers who hate being told the end of a story before they even know the beginning should stop reading and turn instead to the account in this week's Sun Magazine about David Powell's 40-year search for his sister.

Last weekend, Mr. Powell, a former professor of humanities who lives in Cumberland, talked to his younger sister for the first time since 1937.

Sadie Lee Powell was only a year old when she was given up for adoption by her dying mother and alcoholic father during the Great Depression. She was the youngest of the five Powell children. Her older brothers and sister grew up in Texas state homes and rarely saw each other after their mother's death in 1938.

The story in Sun Magazine, which was printed two weeks in advance of delivery, tells how Mr. Powell began searching for Sadie Lee in 1955. His long quest ended suddenly on March 4 -- the morning he opened a letter from a Mississippi judge revealing the names of Sadie Lee Powell's adoptive parents.

"It took one hour at most, maybe only 30 minutes," said Mr. Powell, who wrote about his childhood -- and his struggle to find Sadie Lee -- in a self-published book titled "Sadie Lee, Where Are You?"

Although a call to the couple's hometown of Greenville, Miss., revealed that they no longer lived there, Mr. Powell tracked down another woman who remembered J. O. Smith and his wife. She was able to put him in touch with the Smiths' son.

Three phone calls later, Mr. Powell was talking to the woman who, until that moment, lived in his memory as only a smiling, giggling infant.

"She kept saying, 'I can't believe it. I must be hallucinaing,' " an elated Mr. Powell said Monday. "It was especially gratifying to hear that I was the only one of the family that [Sadie Lee] remembered."

Mr. Powell, who was only 3 years old when his sister was given up for adoption, hopes to visit Mississippi this week.

MA Their reunion, when it occurs, will be chronicled in The Sun.

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