On May 26th,1963, Toni DiPina was abandoned by her parents in St. Louis, Missouri. According to the Daily Mail, she was nine-months old and left at a vacant lot among rusting cars and old appliances. Two boys playing at the lot discovered her, but her biological parents never came to claim her.
Now DiPina is 51-years-old and has been searching for the people responsible for saving her life. Although the boys involved in the case have yet to emerge, DiPina found the police officer that came to her rescue over 50 years ago.
Today, no-one has ever come forward to claim her and, for decades, all she knew of the day that changed her life forever was a report by officer George Leuckel who was called to collect her.
Now, for the first time, they have enjoyed an emotional reunion to share the unique bond they had carried with them during their very separate lives.
Mr Leuckel, now 79, said he seriously considered adopting her, but felt it would not be possible to take in a black baby in the deeply segregated St Louis of 1963.
Leuckel told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The thought had crossed my mind to take her home, but there was no way you could do that back then.”
Mrs DiPina, now 51, was discovered by two boys in a vacant lot off Bell Avenue on May 26, 1963. What wasn’t mentioned in the official police reports was the immediate connection that was forged when Mr Leuckel first scooped her up.
He said the baby stared at him quietly without crying and then clutched him when he took her to be assessed at the nearby hospital. She was later taken to an emergency foster home and they lost contact.
After a troubled upbringing, Mrs DiPina went on to become a nanny with a respectable family in central Massachusetts, going on to gain a college degree and bringing up a family of her own. She later became a pastor.
In 2008, she read a report in the St Louis Post-Dispatch of a boy who was abandoned in very similar circumstances. She came forward to tell her story in the hope it might encourage someone to come forward for the boy and herself, but neither did. Then, last year, she decided to launch another appeal on Facebook – and called Mr Leuckel for the first time.
They finally met on January 3 at the Oakville condominium Mr Leuckel shares with his wife Barbara and their daughter, named, coincidentally, Toni.
In 2014, LifeNews reported on another abandoned girl who was reunited with the person responsible for saving her life. In 1955, 15-year-old Dave Hickman found an infant in the woods while he was hunting with his grandfather along Indiana 122. According to the Indy Star, he saw a baby lying in the bushes and he and his grandfather immediately called the sheriffs department.
The baby was brought to a local hospital and adopted by a family that eventually left the area. However, Hickman has been searching for her for years; and in 2013, he contacted former Wayne County commissioner, councilman and sheriff John Catey.
During his search, he interviewed more than 75 people and looked through countless records before finding the child he saved. When Hickman and Suey finally reunited, Hickman said, “I’ve been waiting for this for 58 years.” Suey replied, “You’re my hero.”