The story of Minka Disbrow sounds almost too horrific in some ways, but also too amazing, to be true.
In 1928, before she even knew where babies came from, at the age of 16, Minka was raped by a stranger and became pregnant. Fortunately, although she initially tried to hide the situation, she was able to turn to her mother to have her explain what was happening.
Like other rape victims from decades past, Minka faced a sense of shame as she was sent away in order to hide her pregnancy from her sister. After giving birth to a baby girl she named Betty Jane, she gave her child up for adoption.
Minka Disbrow continued on with her life, got married, and had children, who also had children. When she was 94, after she had hid her secret for 77 years, from even her children and grandchildren, Minka shared news about Betty Jane, including a picture she had kept of her. Naturally, her family was shocked, and her granddaughter, Cathy LaGrow, comments that she considered her to be “a very dignified, hardworking person…”
Reporting from TheBlaze tells the story of Minka Disbrow, with two videos. While the end to the story eventually had an amazing and happy ending, there was still some hardships, even all the years following the rape.
Minka may not have been able to talk about her rape, pregnancy or daughter for so many years, but she had certainly not forgotten about her daughter. Besides keeping the picture, she had written letters to the adoption agency in hopes of finding out about her Betty Jane, renamed Ruth Lee.
LaGrow credits her grandmother’s faith:
Success and happiness were all Disbrow wanted for her child and that was exactly what Lee was experiencing.
“It was her faith that allowed her to have that hope through all those years … that Betty Jane was having a good life and had a strong family,” LaGrow said of her grandmother.
And what had finally happened after 77 years, was around Ruth Lee’s birthday, when her birth mother was thinking again of her daughter, when she hoped she would see her again before she died.
Prior to the video of the reunion, TheBlaze discusses how the two came to finally reunite:
“Less than six weeks later, she got the call from [Lee],” LaGrow told TheBlaze, calling the story of how the two reconnected “stranger than fiction.”
Ruth Lee had naturally been looking for information about her past, though her birth mother had no idea. After Lee had become sick in 2006, she realized that she didn’t have enough family history to provide when asked, and began to wonder more. She and her son Brian dug up information together and eventually she found the letters from her Disbrow along with her adoption files. And while she knew nothing about how she had been conceived and her mother’s pregnancy, she had now found out, after believing that her parents could not afford her.
But TheBlaze points out some touching remarks from Lee:
“I just started to well up with anger. I thought, ‘Oh my word, back then they even had rapes going on?,” Lee said. “I just could hardly believe it … I felt such anger at what had been done to her.”
She added, ”With everything that happened to her, you realize she could have become very bitter, but it only made her stronger and it made her faith stronger and that’s pretty amazing.”
Her son Brian was eventually able to learn about how Disbrow had gotten married and where she was. He also found her phone number for his mother, who learned that her mother at 94 years old was still alive, and made the call to her. TheBlaze continues on with more information about the relationship:
She mustered up the courage to pick up the phone and call her birth mother, the two hearing each others’ voices for the very first time.
“I got on the phone and it was a very emotional time. And so she wanted to know if I had any children and I said, ‘Yes, I have six children,’” Lee recalled. “She wanted to know all about the kids and I told her — I went down the line.”
Lee said Disbrow was shocked to learn that one of her grandsons was an astronaut who had been on four missions in space.
From there, a relationship was born, with the two keeping in touch and bringing family members together for the very first time, including Lee’s half-sister Dianna — LaGrow’s mother.
Lee said it was as though she and Disbrow had known one another forever.
“It brings the tears to the eyes,” Lee, now 85, said. ”She gave me the gift of life and she gave me the gift of adoption.”
The two built out a relationship, making up for lost time in the ensuing years.
“It has a very happy ending and I’ve heard and read about a lot of stories like this and they haven’t turned out so well,” Lee told TheBlaze before her mother’s death. “I’m just very, very thankful and grateful how this one turned out.”