Lost ... And Found

Abandoned as a newborn 40 years ago, woman has put together the pieces of her life

By PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer

July 25, 2007 - Freddie Alsobrooks is alive and well and living in Sulphur Springs with three children of her own.

But first, she had to put together the pieces of her life through love and forgiveness.

"My life has been surrounded in mystery," said Freddie, who credits her adoptive parents, the late Fred and Vida Alsobrooks, for instilling within her a healthy attitude about the unfortunate circumstances under which her life began. “They taught me that there is goodness in everybody and that you don’t know what people are going through until you’ve walked in their shoes.”

It was 40 years ago today — July 25, 1967 — when the headlines of the News-Telegram read, "Newly-Born Baby Found In Box on Lover's Lane." 

She was less than an hour old and weighed a mere 4 pounds, the newspaper reported. The infant girl was found bloody and covered with ants by a water works employee on a dirt road known in the area as Lover's Lane, which runs alongside of what is now the Stonebriar housing edition off of State Highway 11 west. 

"I might forget what I had for supper yesterday, but I won't ever forget that," said A.L. Brown, who came upon the scene that hot July afternoon. "I knew [police officer] Glen Wagner, and he said, "A.L., come look what somebody's done gone and throwed away.' She was laying there in a Folgers Coffee box just a-cryin'."

Hospital reports stated that a  female infant identified as “Baby X" was brought into the emergency room by officer Wagner. The product of an approximately 8 1/2-month gestation, it was determined that she was less than an hour old when she was found, with the umbilical cord and placenta still attached. 

�I may have been unknown to people, but God, he knew who I was,� said Freddie.

As news of Baby X spread throughout the community, requests to adopt the infant soon began to pour in.

Having already adopted two sons, the Alsobrooks, a prominent family in the community and owners of Alsobrooks Funeral Home from 1949 to 1975, immediately took action and were chosen from among numerous families who stepped forward to offer the baby a home. 

�They were good Christian people, and I was so blessed to have them for my parents,� said Freddie.

As she grew up, Freddie said, she knew that her two older brothers were both adopted. However, it did not dawn on her that she herself might be adopted until she began to reach adolescence.

"I was about 14 when I started asking questions," she said. "I would hear things, really harsh things — rumors at school — and go home and ask Mom about it. She'd just say, 'Oh, you know how kids are.' She wasn't ready to tell me. I think everyone in my family was a little concerned about how I would handle it."

It was finally a cousin, with whom she was very close, who told her she was adopted.

�I went back to my mom and made it very clear to her that I wasn't going anywhere," Freddie emphasized. " I assured her of my love and told her, 'I just need to know who my people are.'"

Mrs. Alsobrooks confirmed the news and told Freddie how she had been found on the side of a road.

��My parents raised me to be very loving, understanding and forgiving,� explained Freddie. �I was taught to realize that you don�t always know what people are going through. So that�s what was going through my mind. I was concerned about everybody else�s feelings and I just wanted them to know I was all right. It was OK for me to know this.�

Though no one had ever come forward in the case, it didn’t take long for names to begin to circulate among the community. The names, Elmer Dial and Mattie Ivery Allen were revealed to the young girl.

She had never heard of Mattie Ivery Allen, but the name Elmer Dial was familiar to her.

�He used to help my dad dig graves,� she recalled. �His father and my father were best friends, so he was close to our family.�

However, it wasn’t until the death of his father that Elmer himself found out that Freddie was his daughter.

According to Freddie, she was about 3 years old when Elmer’s father died, and she was helping her dad set up chairs for his funeral. 

�I remember he kept calling me Dorothy, supposedly because I looked so much like his niece whose name was Dorothy,� explained Freddie.�

Elmer, unaware that the little girl was his, was taken aside by a family friend and told the news, according to Freddie.

When she was 14 and discovered the truth, she confronted Elmer.

�I think he was scared to death,� Freddie said with a laugh.�

Elmer told her that he never knew Mattie was even pregnant. After their brief relationship ended, he said he left to work in West Texas for several years before coming home and learning what had happened. Knowing the Alsobrooks family personally, he was content to watch the young child from a distance, knowing she was being raised in a good home.

With no word as to the whereabouts of Mattie, Freddie’s curiosity was satisfied for the time being. Ten years passed before Freddie began questioning her mother for more details.

She was informed that there were newspaper reports, as well as police and hospital reports, that she might be able to track down.

Her first stop was the police station, where she was given the name of Glen Wagner.

�He was no longer alive, but his mother was,� recalled Freddie, who paid the elderly lady an unannounced visit. �I was really nervous. When she opened the door, she looked at me and then quoted my full name � Freddie Ernestine Alsobrooks. She knew exactly who I was.�

According to Freddie, Mrs. Wagner was very excited to finally meet her, and then commenced to tell her the story of her name. 

�Come to find out they were going to name me Glenda Ernestine, after her son Glen and the police chief, Ernest Martin,� Freddie said.�

However, Glen declined the honor, saying she should be named after her adoptive father.

�She told me that he talked about me a lot,� Freddie remembered. �She said it took so much out of him. �It did something to him,� she said. He was never the same.�

After that, she went to the News-Telegram and began to search through the archives.

�I began searching, and when I got to July and read the article about my abandonment, I was shocked,� she admitted. �It felt like my heart just stopped. I got very teary-eyed. I was so excited to have found something, but also in my mind I was thinking �I need to find her.��

Soon after that, Freddie, 24, who was married and raising three young children in the Dallas area, was told by a friend that Mattie had recently suffered a heart attack.

Freddie felt even more compelled to find her.

�All I could think about was, 'She�s living with this. She has to let it go and know that I forgive her,'� Freddie said.

She learned that Mattie was also living in the Dallas area, and was given the telephone number of one of her sons.

�I called him up and told him who I was and that Mattie was my birth mother,� said Freddie. �I told him I would like to meet her, but I knew of her health condition and didn�t want to cause any more stress in her life right now.�

Instead of meeting with Mattie, Freddie met with Jerry Allen, her half brother, the following week. She said it felt like they had known each other for years, and when she showed him pictures of her children, he exclaimed that her youngest son looked just like Mattie.

It was two weeks before her 25th birthday when she finally made the call to her biological mom.

�I told her who I was and she got real quiet,� remembered Freddie. �I told her �If this is true, you have three grandchildren, and I would like to meet you.�

Mattie told her to come over.

�The first thing she did was took my hands and looked at them and said, �You have hands just like mine,�� recalled Freddie.

As they sat together, Mattie revealed that she had five children by another man that she was raising alone at the time of her birth. Unable to afford going to the hospital she went to a mid-person to assist in the delivery. After a long, exhausting labor, the baby was born unresponsive.

�She told me I was stillborn,� explained Freddie.� �She said I wasn�t breathing, and she was sent home.�

According to Mattie, she went home and collapsed into a deep sleep. When she woke up, news of an abandoned newborn baby was all over town. 

�She didn�t know what to think or do. She was afraid to say anything,� said Freddie. �She felt like no one would believe her.

"I chose to believe her.”

Mattie stayed in Sulphur Springs for a couple of years before moving out of the area and getting on with her life. 

�I have no regrets in discovering the truth about my life,� said Freddie. �I just needed to know and deal with it, and to help others deal with it, also. �

The two were able to develop a relationship as the years went by, and Mattie even came to live with Freddie in her old age.

�I was taking care of both my mothers at one time. I had both of them living in my home, and it was beautiful,� said Freddie, whose adoptive mother died in 2004, followed by her biological mother's death in December of 2006. �She carried me the first 8 months of my life, and she was with me during the last 8 months of her life. We were together in the beginning of life and in the end. That�s something special to hold on to.�

Elmer is the only one of her parents left alive — Freddie lost her adoptive father back in 1975. 

�I tell people my story when things are looking bad for them, just to encourage them,� explained Freddie. �I hope that my story helps others to know what it means to forgive. You have to forgive in order to move on and for God to bless you. God gave me life. The odds were against me, but God saw me through. He�s blessed me with three children of my own, and a grandbaby on the way. Yes, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but I accept they are not meant for me to know. This is closure for me. I�ve got all the answers I need.�

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