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Brandon woman finds birth family after decades apart

In a July 5 photo, Dan Cornwall, 54, of LaSalle, Ill., meets his sister Barbara Buck, 63, of Brandon at the Parkway Restaurant in Sycamore, Ill., for the first time after more than five decades. Buck was put up for adoption when she was two months old. (AP Photo/Daily Chronicle, Rob Winner)

SYCAMORE, Ill. (AP) -- Dan Cornwall thought it was a scam.

When a woman called him June 16 claiming to be his sister, he thought it could be a ploy to take some of the nonexistent inheritance his mother left. But as the woman started naming more than just family members, he realized her claim that she was given up for adoption at a young age was true.

On July 5, Cornwall, 54, met his sister Barb Buck, 63, for the first time at Parkway Restaurant in Sycamore -- an establishment both knew without ever knowing the other had even heard of it.

Cornwall, who lives in LaSalle and works as a high school teacher, and Buck, who lives in Brandon working as a receptionist, both lived in the Sycamore area in the early 1990s, and Buck worked with Cornwall's wife at Kishwaukee Community Hospital for a short time.

"It's just amazing how many connections we have," Cornwall said. "It was a shock."

Buck had thought about her birth mother and the potential siblings she might have had throughout her life, but the state would not release birth records to adopted children without consent of birth parents. Once the state law changed in November, she set out to find her roots.

"Always around my birthday, I wondered if (my mother) thought about me or if I had siblings," Buck said. "It's a weight lifted ... it's wonderful to finally know."

Buck and Cornwall, who had different fathers, hypothesized that their mother gave up Buck for adoption in 1949 because of the societal pressures that came with having a child out of wedlock.

But the decades apart did not stop the two from joking with each other the same way the closest of siblings do. During their first meeting, they were surrounded by family - including their sister Kathryn Kemnitz, who also met Buck for the first time.

Although the distance between the two is large, Buck still lives in South Dakota, they plan on staying in touch. Buck has a daughter in Peoria and another in Sycamore, making LaSalle the perfect midway point to live for Cornwall.

The two also have consistently communicated on Facebook since Buck first called her brother June 16. She credited the social media site for making their unlikely meeting a possibility.

"I've pretty much doubled my family," Cornwall said. "I guess I'm going to have send more Christmas cards."