DEERFIELD BEACH (CBS4) – A mother and daughter who haven’t seen each other for 48 years met for the first time Tuesday.
It’s an emotional story of hope, persistence and promises kept.
Joan Courchene Wehrmeyer of Coral Springs split up with her husband when their daughter Stephanie Phillips was a baby.
Stephanie was raised by her father and her mother’s identity became a taboo subject.
“There were key times in my life, like when I was having my first child and important milestones, I wished my mom had been around,” says Stephanie as she sat for lunch with Joan at Two George’s Restaurant on the intracoastal in Deerfield Beach.
“I just knew it was her, it’s almost like she was never gone,” a tearful Joan told CBS 4 shortly after she hugged her daughter for the first time in four decades.
“I wondered about her many times, I looked many times,” said Joan Wehrmeyer. “I knew it would happen, because she’s my daughter and I was her mother.”
Re-married with other adult children, Joan said her son made a promise that he would help locate the daughter she lost.
Coincidentally, Stephanie’s husband Rodney Phillips made a similar promise when they met 13 years ago, assuring her he would help find her mother.
And then a key turning point happened earlier this year: Stephanie obtained her birth certificate which had the correct spelling of her mother’s name.
Rodney says he used the search engine PeopleSearch to find Joan on Facebook.
Rodney reached out to Joan on Facebook in March but heard nothing.
Then he tried again, in June.
“We were having lunch on June 18th, and I told Stephanie, I have something for you,” said Rodney Phillips. That something was news that he had found her mother and had given Joan their phone number.
“I was totally shocked and speechless, I just broke down and cried,” said Joan when she realized she was connecting with the daughter she had not spoken to in 48 years. “I said ‘I don’t believe it’.”
The two talked for hours and haven’t stopped texting, calling and writing to each other on Facebook ever since.
Through talking they learned they both worked as caterers and both owned restaurants.
“She likes to cook and we both have that. And then jokingly I said I was the only left handed person in my family and I found she’s left handed too,” laugh Joan.
Stephanie, who has six children together with her husband Rodney, said, “I’ve been cooking since sixth grade. It came naturally to me. Maybe there’s something more to genetics than your upbringing.”
The two have a lot of catching up to do.
They plan on expanded family reunions.