Son and birth mother reunite after 16 years

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2001

David Summerly had nearly given up hope of finding his birth mother.

But, on July 29, he made one last stab at searching the Internet and came up with her new name, Patricia John, and residence, Juneau.

"I dialed Information," Summerly said. "Next thing I know she is on the phone and she is crying and happy, and we ended up talking and talking," he said with a grin. The phone call lasted for three hours.

Summerly, 19, is John's son, whom she lost custody of when he was 3 years old. At the time, she lived in the Anchorage area, where he has three sisters he soon will meet for the first time: Naomi DeMott, 15, and Arrianne Swihart, 11, of Wasilla, and Breanne Trimble, 9, of Anchorage.

John delights in telling Summerly his heritage. "He is related to French Pete Erussard (a Juneau prospector) on my side; Pete was my great grandfather. And he is also related to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce," she said.

"I have been looking ever since I can remember because it was supposed to be an open adoption where I would have visitation," John said. "I thought his last name was Purvis, and I used to call Arizona and Nevada looking for 'David Purvis.'"

Patsy John has been married for the past seven years to Ronald John, a conductor on the Mount Roberts Tramway.

"When we got the phone call and David told me his name, my eyes got big! It was her boy. She has been on cloud nine since then," Ronald John said. The trio immediately made plans for Summerly to fly to Alaska. He arrived Aug. 3 and made himself right at home under a big "Welcome" banner, calling Patsy "Mom" and Ron "Dad."

Patsy John said she could not trace David because he lived with several foster families, and lost track of him. She had intended to give the birth father custody of David so she could go to school in Florida, but the state didn't give the father custody, and the boy ended up in foster care.

Ellie Forcum, a registered nurse now living in Texas, is Summerly's adoptive mother, whom he calls Mama.

"David is my beautiful son and Patsy's beautiful son," Forcum said in a telephone interview.

"I told David all his life, 'Your parents loved you very much.' And when he was 18, it was his right and their right to get to know one another," she said.

"When he told me he had found his birth mother, I said, 'Wonderful.' I told him he is not my possession and he needs to see who he looks like. There is no animosity," Forcum said.

"I always told myself, 'He is not mine, but I can be instrumental in making him the best person he can be.' I was his foster parent, I loved him and then I adopted him. I didn't set out to find somebody; it just happened," Forcum added.

Summerly praises Forcum unreservedly. "She is a wonderful woman," he said.

When he turned 18, Summerly was able to request records of his birth from the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. He ordered his original birth certificate from Juneau. When he read the names of his birth parents, he began combing the Internet for their whereabouts.

"I was about to give up for a couple of years while I went on my mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints. Then I thought I'd try one more time. I saw I thought it was probably just a way to get my $40, but I decided to do it anyway. I typed in their names, and Mom's came up with the current address."

For others seeking relatives, Patsy John has this advice: "Don't give up. I was diagnosed with a brain stem tumor two years ago. I should be dead now. I really wanted to meet David before anything happens to me. I think this is a miracle of God."

"It turned out good," Summerly said of their reunion. "Any time you bring lives together that have gone down different paths, they may have different beliefs, and that is a bit of a trial. But being happy and loving each other makes it all work."

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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