Beauty Queen Was Left at an Airport When She Was a Baby – 40 Years Later, She Learns Her Mom Never Meant to Abandon Her
“It was really through this process of finding my birth mother that I’m able to rewrite my narrative.”
In January 1980, two airline pilots discovered a baby abandoned at the gate of a Nevada airport without a single clue as to how she ended up inside the airport.
Though she was quickly adopted into a loving home, Elizabeth Hunterton, now in her early 40s, says she spent years wondering about the parents she never met.
“I was about ten days old,” Hunterton told People Magazine. “I grew up my entire life trying to figure out what I did in those ten days that led to them saying, ‘Let’s leave her at the airport.'”
How One Woman Tried to Find the Mother She Had Never Known
Throughout Hunterton’s life, the questions remained, so she decided to look into online ancestry sites to see if finding a connection to her biological mother would be a possibility. She also found herself curious about her racial background, which was clearly different from the white family she had grown up in.
She often wondered if she could be related to people she encountered in her everyday life.
Spending years on the beauty pageant circuit, Hunterton was crowned Miss Nevada in 2004. The pageant life was an important fit for her and she still works for the organization — now as its Chief Executive Officer. While she grew up happy and content, she still wanted to discover more about her origins. She had very little information to go on, as she didn’t know her date of birth, her city of birth, or the race of her birth parents.
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Elizabeth explored many avenues to learn more. She even worked with a private investigator from the TLC program Long Lost Family. Sadly, her searches turned up with no leads.
“When this all started unfolding, there were points that I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I’ll just walk away now,’ because it just got hard,” she said.
In 2008, after searching a variety of DNA databases, Hunterton was able to track down her biological father. Upon discovering his identity, she learned he had passed away in 2004. She made contact with her birth father’s family, and they told her that he had never known that he had had a daughter.
Hunterton didn’t give up and registered with the genetic testing website 23andMe.
How a Woman Found Out the Truth About Her Birth
A few months later, her 23andMe profile received a few hits, so she connected with three different women hoping they would be a match. Each time, she began to build a relationship but was hurt to learn that the women, who were related to her in different ways, were not her mother.
She had decided to finally give up her search but just as she shifted her focus away from her pursuit and back onto her two children, she received another connection on the website. It was from a second cousin who was able to put her in direct contact with her birth mother!
Elizabeth decided to send the woman a handwritten, two-page letter. And for the first time in her life, she was able to communicate with her biological mother and ask her all of the questions she had been wondering since she was a child.
She discovered that she had a Japanese mother and a Black father who met on the Fort Ord military base and that she was born in a hospital in California. She also learned that the airport abandonment hadn’t been intentional.
“When I received her email, she shared that she wasn’t able to take care of me as she believed I deserved,” Hunterton recalls. “Therefore, she gave me to her roommate who was supposed to take me to an adoption agency. When my birth mother was told that I was actually left at the airport instead, it took quite a toll.”
Once Hunterton had the information of exactly where and when she’d been born, she was able to track down her birth certificate. Coincidentally, she had been given the middle name “Elizabeth” at birth; a discovery that Hunterton said made her feel more connected to her identity.
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In a statement Hunterton shared, her 65-year-old biological mother said that she was initially “surprised, scared, and truly overwhelmed” by the prospect of meeting her long-lost daughter. She was shocked to hear from her and by the amount of research she did. “It was all very overwhelming and brought back a lot of painful memories. However, it’s also a tremendous blessing to find out what a strong and wonderful woman she turned out to be. One day, when we’ve all healed a bit more, hopefully, we’ll be able to meet.”
“It was really through this process of finding my birth mother that I’m able to rewrite my narrative,” she says. “I had really prepared myself to be rejected by both sides of my biological family. And it ended up being so much more beautiful than anything I could’ve written.”
“She has such a good heart,” Hunterton said. “We exchange occasional emails and texts and holiday niceties. But the good thing is, I have a mom. I don’t need to put any unfair, unrealistic expectations on her. I just give her permission to be exactly who she is and it’s perfect.”
She added: “I think that was a really beautiful way for the story to unfold, that in the end, it flowed so beautifully, both through my mom, myself and my birth mother. It really kind of unified all three of us in different ways. But it was all I could’ve ever hoped for to hear from her.”