Michigan Dad Learns of Son After 61 Years

January 26, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Today, a couple of cases of paternity fraud. They’re very different, but both cry out for justice. The first is here (Inquisitr, 1/21/15).

It’s the story of Anthony Trapani, a Grand Rapids, Michigan man, who’s now 81 years old. Way back in 1954, he and a woman named Shirley Childress had a brief affair that to this day he refers to as “dating.” The two went their separate ways, but in 1959, Childress wrote Trapani a letter.

“Dear Tony, I bet you are surprised to hear from me after so many years. I was just thinking about you tonight like so many other nights. But I thought I would write you and find out how you are. Tony, please don’t be angry or surprised to hear this. I have a little boy. He is five-years- old now — grey eyes and beautiful black hair. What I am trying to say Tony is he is your son.”

“Please Tony if you can find it in your heart to forgive me, please come and see him. Every day he asks me where is his daddy and believe me Tony I can’t even answer him anymore. If would be forever grateful to you if you would just see him. … I’ll close now hoping and praying you will answer.

Trapani never answered, never went to visit his son who asked so often “where’s my daddy?” He didn’t answer, not because he didn’t want to or didn’t care about his son. No, Trapani never got in touch with Childress because he never received her letter. Oh, it was sent to his address, but his wife intercepted it and hid it from him. Strictly by chance, he found it last year when, after his wife had died and he was cleaning out some of her personal effects, he ran across the letter. Of course Childress, assuming he’d received her letter, allowed the matter to drop, assuming he wanted nothing to do with his son.

Interestingly, both sides of the boy’s family tried independently to unite father with son. Sam’s wife tried to find Trapani for 23 years, without success. Tony’s sister, Arlene Schulte, began doing the same last year as soon as Trapani told her about the letter and his son.

The story of how Tony Tripani was able to find his son is interesting in itself. After the letter was read, Tony informed his family members about the discovery. They started looking for Tony’s lost son and attempted to contact someone who could be related to Sam. However, success eluded them until two weeks ago when Tony’s sister Arlene Schulte managed to locate Sam’s wife, Donna, on Facebook. It was later revealed that Donna herself was on a mission to find Sam’s father for the past 23 years.

Finally, just three weeks ago, the two were united.

With the son and the father meeting up for the first time, they are planning to make up for the lost years and spend as much time together as possible. Samuel, who has three children of his own now, plans to shift to Grand Rapids so that they could be closer to Tony.

Holding his father’s hand, an overjoyed Childress says its all a miracle.

“It’s a miracle. I’m just glad now what time we have just to get to know him — that’s very important. It fills that void I’ve had over the years.”

Meanwhile, Tony, who is still recovering from the pleasant surprise of having a son at 81-years of age, said the following.

“It’s one of those things you think, ‘How could this happen?’ It’s fantastic — but why didn’t I know this ahead of time?”

Why didn’t he know? Because two people managed to keep knowledge of his son from him. Childress waited five years to tell him. By then he’d married and was trying to have a child with his wife. What would he have done if he’d received the letter? It’s hard to know, but it’s clear his wife had some very definite ideas on the subject. Otherwise, why’d she keep knowledge of the child from her husband?

What would Trapani have done if Childress had told him as soon as she learned she was pregnant? Who knows, but those were the mid-50s, a time when young men very often were pressured to “do the right thing,” i.e. marry the woman and raise the child together.

We can’t say what Trapani would have done at that age. But what we can and must hear are Sam’s words on being united with his dad: “it fills a void I’ve had over the years.” Sixty-one years, to be exact. What both Trapani’s wife and Shirley Childress did was to deprive a boy/man of his father. What they did was create a void in his soul, one that he’s longed to fill all his life. They didn’t have to do that, but they did.

Our society needs to finally put aside the long-outmoded notion that children don’t need their fathers. Part of that process of putting aside requires us to legally require women who conceive children to inform the fathers of the fact promptly. Once they do, Dad can take up his rights and duties as father. That means caring for the child and contributing half to its financial support. If he chooses to have nothing to do with the child, realistically, there’s little anyone can do to make him be the father the child needs, but most men won’t take that route.

If Mom believes he’s unfit to have custody rights, she’ll be required to prove the matter in court and the father will have the right to assert his parental rights in the same proceeding. If she prevails, he’s out of the child’s life at least until he can prove he’s changed his ways. If he prevails, he’ll get to be a regular, hands-on father.

The way we do things now bears little resemblance to the sensible suggestion above. As things stand now, mothers can, in some cases with surprisingly little effort, deny a child a father and a father a child by the simple expedient of concealing the child from him. No jurisdiction anywhere requires a mother to inform a father of his child. Only if a mother receives Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), is she required to identify the child’s father. Even then, she’s not required to identify the correct one, a fact to which countless men can testify.

Of course if she does identify the man, he can then assert his parental rights. But her receipt of TANF funds may occur long after the child was born, effectively preventing a meaningful relationship between father and child from developing. And by that time, he may live far away from his child, which probably means he’ll have no relationship with little Andy or Jenny at all.

Supposedly, fathers have parental rights in this country. If that’s the case, the state must afford them a meaningful opportunity to assert them. As a practical matter, that means requiring mothers to inform fathers of the fact of their paternity within some reasonable time prior to the birth.


National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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