Local man’s reunion with birth parents, siblings could affect Missouri law

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - A St. Louis man, adopted as a baby in 1975, has been reunited with his "birth" family. The heartwarming story may help change Missouri law.

Brad Watts is 40 and only recently discovered his birth family – in Ohio. His newfound brother just brought his family here for their first trip ever to St. Louis. Everyone had a ball.

But if Brad's birth family lived in Missouri, their reunion wouldn't have happened.

Ten months ago, Watts and his biological brother, Zac Gray, didn’t even know each other. Watts was adopted days after his birth by Nancy and Byron Watts.

Any “open” records were cryptic: his adoptive parents had a handwritten description of his birth-parents. His mother, Lori Gray, was just 14 years old and his father, only 15.

“It was the hardest thing I ever done in my life, but I think it was right,” Lori told Fox 2.

“She got to be with me for 20 minutes. She held me for 20 minutes. That was it,” Brad said.

Though Brad’s new parents made no secret of his adoption, he grew up their son in a loving home, a big brother to his little sister Christie. And it’s still that way.

“(But) you always want to know where you come from,” Brad said.

And he came from Ohio.

Brad is one of a band of fun-loving brothers and a sister. They share a resemblance, a sense of humor, a bond. It jumps out at them when they’re together, whether clowning in the pool, mugging for a camera, or even ordering food.

“Like a cheeseburger. I want a cheeseburger with the cheese and a bun. That’s it, nothing else. He’s the same way,” Zac Gray said.

“Oh, [it was like] I was looking in the mirror. It’s not only the looks. It’s the actions,” Brad said.

Brad was able to get his original birth certificate after the Ohio legislature unsealed adoption records through 1996. He tracked down his birth family from there.

His biological father later married his mom. They had four more sons and a daughter, who’ve had children of their own. Brad met his mom – who’s battling cancer – in a hospital.

“She was kind of teary eyed. I said, ‘You know, mom, we’ve got to make a promise to each other. We’ve got to stop meeting in places like this every 40 years,’” Brad said. “She goes, ‘Well, I got to hold you for 20 minutes before they took you away’. I go, ‘Well, I can sit on your lap, but in these conditions it might not be great, because I’m a lot bigger than I was.’”

“When I saw him I knew, because he looks like the other guys and acts like the other guys,” Lori said. “I was so happy. God made a miracle … I just thought I’d never see him … then I get to see him again,” she said as tears began to come.

The reunion has made news beyond St. Louis. Ohio newspapers, even People magazine, have documented the story.

Both sets of Brad’s parents have met and joined in the celebration of the end of a secret there was no point in keeping.

“I think because of mom having to giving him up, she forced us kids, ‘You have to stay together, no matter what. Family means everything,’” Zac said.

Neither the miles, nor the years, have changed that.

Brad Watts said he always thought he looked Greek or Italian. It turns out he’s more Native American—Cherokee, to be specific—than anything.

Along with the thrill of finally finding out, this has been important for medical reasons. Until now, when doctors asked about family medical history, Brad had to say he didn’t know.

Meanwhile, House Bill 1599 is being debated in the Missouri legislature. It would unseal records for adopted children once they reach the age of 18. At present, the records are only accessible after biological parents either give their consent or die.