A man who embarked on an emotional journey to find his birth parents saw that journey come to a happy end in Mission.
Robert McKeever was born in 1970 in Burnaby, and was adopted to Ron and Jan McKeever in April of that year. His new parents took him from Canada to the sunshine of Sunnyvale, California.
“I always knew, from as young as I can remember, I knew I was adopted,” McKeever said.
“My parents always said they would help me find my biological parents but out of respect I never wanted to look. I was an only child, but my parents did want other children but could not.”
His mother passed away in 2006 and his father died in April 2018.
Back in 2016, McKeever’s wife, Allison, bought him an Ancestry DNA kit, and he discovered a second cousin who lived in New Zealand.
It wasn’t until after his father passed away that he decided to reach out to that cousin. She pointed him to a family tree and he found a picture of a man who looked just like him.
The man’s name was Robert Hurly.
Hurly passed away in 2008 but he had three daughters. McKeever’s wife reached out to them via social media.
After seeing his picture, the women were stunned by the resemblance, and one of them reached out to him.
On May 12, 2018, his journey really began as he spoke to his half-sister for the first time.
“Kim Kuyper’s an amazing woman who took the time to take a chance on a complete stranger, as, until we spoke, I was a no one.”
When Kuyper called, McKeever was outside. His wife came running out with the phone.
“I honestly can say I have never been more nervous in my life to take a phone call. The instant we spoke, it was like we had been brother and sister for all our lives.”
Later that day, he spoke to his other sister, Nikki Hurly Grata.
Both sisters live in B.C. – Kuyper in Mission and Hurly Grata in Langley.
“My sisters reached out to my younger sister, Cassie Hurly, who was just as excited as Kim and Nikki.”
They met face to face for the first time in Stanley Park in July 2018.
During their series of phone calls and meetings, the siblings managed to put together how their father and McKeever’s mother met.
“They met in Mission. Robert and my mother dated for a short time but then my mother got pregnant. I learned that Robert moved back to Vancouver and my mother, we believe, stayed in Mission,” McKeever said.
Having met his sisters on his biological father’s side, it was time to find out about his biological mother.
After hitting dead end after dead end, McKeever caught a break.
His half-sister Cassie’s mom seemed to remember the name Debbie.
Normal forms of research – such as checking records and searching Mission high school yearbooks – didn’t shed any light on any Debbie.
Then a cousin suggested he try using 23 and Me for more DNA testing. After taking the test, they got a hit, a cousin named Stan Kokoska.
After McKeever reached out to him, Kokoska said he couldn’t be sure, but thought his cousin Debie (spelled with only one B) might be his biological mother.
In a letter, Kokoska said Debie is the daughter of his mother’s sister and that the whole family lived in Mission when he grew up.
It was the first hard evidence McKeever had to knowing her name, and that she was real.
“I called my sister Kim, who lived in Mission, with the exciting news and stated that I found a name of Kokoska. Lo and behold, I realized at that moment how really small the world is.”
His sister told him they had purchased their home and farm from the Kokoska family.
The coincidence was amazing. His biological family on his father’s side bought a home from his biological family on his mother’s side, and they didn’t know it.
“Two separate families that I was connected with, but they have no ties except for me.”
McKeever reached out to a lot of family members from the Kokoska clan until he found the number for his mother’s brother, Kevin.
Kevin agreed to call Debie and let her know that the son she gave up for adoption was looking for her.
“So now I waited to see if my mother would call. Did she want to see me? Did she have a new life that did not include me? Would she want to talk to me? Was I a dirty secret that was never to be brought up? So many questions swirled in my head.”
Those questions were put to rest when, on Feb. 12, Debie Roe spoke to her son.
“She and my sister Teresa were on speakerphone talking to me. She was so excited to talk to me.”
He learned that his sister Teresa and brother Alex both knew about him, and that every year they would celebrate his birthday.
“I met my mother in March in Abbotsford at a restaurant. We spent six hours talking non-stop, showing pictures, and talking about life.”
Just last week, on May 18, at his sister Kim’s home in Mission, Robert McKeever, an only child, sat down with all his siblings, from both sides of his family, for the first time.
His search is complete.