At the age of 10, Verda Byrd, born Verda Ann Wagner found out she was adopted. She didn’t give it much thought because she was being raised in a fulfilling and loving home.
In October of 2013, seventy years after the revealing of her lineage, Byrd finally began investigating her background. Her adoptive parents, Ray and Edwinna Wagner died in 1989.
Byrd also hired an adoptive investigator, who researched and gathered paperwork from Missouri. Byrd now had in her possession an amended birth certificate and the names of her birth parents, Daisy and Earl Beagle.
After combing through numerous files on the internet and at the library, Byrd also located three siblings – Sybil Panko, Debbie Romero and Kathryn Gutierrez. Now aged 75, 60 and 63 respectively.
Panko received a letter from Byrd on February 13, 2014. Later on, she also received a call from Byrd claiming that they were sisters. Panko was highly skeptical, so she called Debbie, the youngest sister.
“Guess what I got in the mail?” Panko said. “A letter from a woman saying she’s my sister. And there’s a phone number.”
Romero called and from the first few minutes of talking to Byrd, she could already tell they were family.
February 10, 1943, a Dallas newspaper clipping recounted how Beagle fell 30 feet from a trestle after being hit by a car. She sustained injuries that caused her to be hospitalized for one year. Subsequently, Beagle’s five children were placed into foster care. Byrd at just one was the youngest child. In all, Daisy Beagle had 10 children.
In 1944, the Wagner’s adopted Byrd in Missouri and raised her in Newton, Kansas.
Her adoption records were sealed and her race was omitted from the records.
Byrd learned she was white when she met her sisters for the first time.
At the time Byrd commented, “It’s been overwhelming,” “For 70 years I’ve been raised as a black woman. Six weeks ago I discovered my parents were white and every one of my siblings is white. I don’t want to be discriminated against by not getting my birth certificate.”
Because of the duality of her heritage and upbringing, Bryd considers herself transracial. “In my case, I was a white child going into a black family,” “It’s a mental growth that I have the experience of both worlds. I’m blessed; the knowledge has been rewarding to me,” she said.
Romero commented, “There were just three of us,” “Now there’s four — it’s an addition instead of a subtraction.”