For the first time, sisters Judy Hall and Karen Mills celebrated Christmas together.
Hall, 65, of Boardman, was adopted at birth by Eleanor and William Jenkins and grew up as an only child.
She learned she was adopted when she was 12, but didn’t search for her family until this year, long after her adoptive parents died in the 1980s.
Although Hall never got to meet her birth parents, Perry and Florence (Glitch) Emmett, she did reunite with family members this summer and shared her story with The Vindicator.
But one person missing from the reunion was her half sister Mills, 71, who moved from New Castle to Palm Coast, Fla., soon after getting married more than 40 years ago.
Hall and Mills have chatted over the phone since July and exchanged photos of their families, homes and everyday life, but it wasn’t until after Thanksgiving that the two met in person.
Hall flew to Palm Coast to bring Mills, who had recently recovered from back surgery, to Ohio. The sisters rented a car and drove 950 miles over two days.
Once they got to Boardman, they visited family and friends around the Mahoning Valley.
“It’s been four years since I was here,” Mills said. “Before that, it had been about 20 years since I had returned.”
They went to the New Castle house where Mills grew up.
“It’s the same. Two bedrooms and one bathroom and there were 10 people living there at the time,” Mills said.
Hall said she had learned financial hardship was the reason she had been given up for adoption.
The sisters also share many traits.
“Nobody can tell us apart when we’re on the phone. We have the same laugh. We talk alike. We have so many things in common. We’ve even had some of the same surgeries. We were both born in March,” Mills said. “I knew I had a sister, but I couldn’t find her.”
On Christmas Eve, Mills met her nephews, Rob Bindas and Scott Fredericks, as they shared Hall’s traditional dinner of sloppy joe sandwiches, baked beans and chips that she makes because “everyone is always on the go around the holidays.”
Mills said she’s enjoying her visit to the Mahoning Valley, even the snow, though she said it’s been a long time since she’s experienced a Northeast Ohio winter.
“I’m freezing. The blood thins out down there where there’s 100-degree weather. I had to go buy some sweaters,” Mills said, laughing.
Hall started chuckling, too. In a few seconds, it was impossible to tell which laugh belonged to which sister.