December 11 2013 Latest news:
Judie Forestieri is meeting her long lost family in America next month. Her dad was an engineer for the USAF and her mum worked at Hardwick Airfield during the war. He returned to America when she was a baby. Picture: James Bass
By Kathryn Bradley
Friday, September 20, 2013
Looking down at her family album, Judie Forestieri says things are now finally making sense.
Although she was brought up in a loving home with her mother and stepfather in Blythburgh, Judie says that for most of her life she harboured the feeling that “something was missing”.
But next month she will travel across the Atlantic to visit the family she has never met – and beneath the nerves and anticipation is the sense that those missing pieces are finally falling into place.
“I feel it is right,” she said. “There has been something missing all my life and now that hole is filling up.
“Things are falling into place. I feel I am who I should be now.”
Judie’s late mother Kathleen Blake, known as Anne, met United States Air Force engineer Al Forestieri at Hardwick Airfield, near Harleston, when he was based there during the second world war.
Anne was 24 and working in the canteen at the site.
The couple had a brief, six-month relationship which resulted in Judie’s birth in 1944.
Al returned to America at the end of the war and Judie spent the first six years of her life living with a foster family before returning to live with her mother and new stepfather, Richard Ingham, in Blythburgh.
Judie was told about her biological father when she was 14 but it was not until 1979 – more than 20 years later – that he made contact with Judie after an extraordinary coincidence.
Judie said: “My mum was living near Harleston and there was a knock on the door.
“When she answered it there were two American journalists standing there. They were doing a piece for the paper about the people at Hardwick Airfield.
“They interviewed my mum and nothing more was said until she got a letter from my dad in America.
“My dad’s brother had seen the article and that started it all off.
“Mum and dad sent a couple of letters back and forth and then I got a letter from dad saying what the family was like and how many brothers and sisters I had got.
“Then suddenly, after a couple of years of letters going back and forth, I got a very long letter from his wife saying she hadn’t known about me and didn’t want me to have anything to do with her family.”
Judie ceased contact with the Forestieri family in 1982 as a result of the letter.
Sadly, her father and her half-brother Michael have now died but when she flies out to America in October she will meet her younger siblings – half-sister Debbie and her half-brothers Marcel and David.
It was during a trip to Las Vegas 18 months ago that Judie decided to track down her family again.
She knew that her half-brother Marcel was in showbusiness but had no idea that he was a well-known Elvis impersonator who performed in Las Vegas and had appeared on TV with American talk show host Jay Leno.
She was also unaware that her siblings had already launched a search for her after the death of their mother four years ago.
Judie said: “In America they have massive lifts that you can fit lots of people in. I was standing there in this lift in Las Vegas thinking that if one of my family was stood in the lift I would never know.
“My partner’s son went online and found an address for my family and I wrote to my brother Marcel.
“In the meantime, their mother had died but before she died she got the four of them together and said sorry for what she did in driving me away and said ‘please find her’.
“While I was writing to Marcel, they had got somebody in England trying to track me down. As soon as he got my letter the phone just started ringing.
“I am going over to see them for the first time next month and we have spoken on Skype. We are very much in touch and at least once a week I get an email from one of them.”
Judie has three children of her own and an English half-sister Nicky Curran, who lives in Lowestoft.
She said she was still discovering new members of her family in America, including two nieces and several cousins that contacted her via Facebook.
Judie will make the journey to see her family in Bear, Delaware, with her partner Derek Martin, who has been given the all-clear to travel despite suffering from prostate cancer.
During her visit she also hopes to see the grave of her father, who died in the 1980s and whose picture is among those in the museum at Hardwick Airfield.
Judie said: “I am very excited to meet my family. I can’t describe the feeling. It is something that I have wanted since I was a child. I feel elated and like I have been given the moon.
“I have had emails from my family saying ‘We can’t wait to meet you and hug you’, and I have got cousins popping up all the time on Facebook asking when they are going to see me.
“I can’t think of anything more exciting that could happen.”