By Sherri Coner
As an only child, Kathy Jones never had trouble finding an empty chair at the dining table. She never witnessed siblings talking over one another, either.
She might be a little late to the party, but this Center Grove resident now relishes in everything that goes along with siblings, such as an overcrowded kitchen and birthday wishes being shouted at her in stereo.
Though her adoptive parents had always been open with her, they knew only that she was born at Methodist Hospital and that Catholic Charities had arranged the adoption.
For more than 15 years after her parents passed away, Kathy considered a search for her biological family.
Three years ago, she finally decided and sent a DNA sample to Ancestry.com.
When results were provided a few weeks later, Kathy and her wife, Holly Jones, stared at a computer screen filled with strangers’ names.
“There were all these people with the last name of Brewer,” Kathy said.
“The website said something like, ‘the odds are that you are related …’” Holly said. “So we just started with people who might be closest to her age.”
So nervous that she still can’t recall the name of that first person she messaged, Kathy only recalled that the response from that person was simply, “You have to be a Brewer.”
An hour later, she heard from Ann, the Brewer family genealogist and the wife of Kathy’s brother, Larry Brewer.
Less than two weeks after that July 2021 conversation, Kathy and Holly drove to Elwood, Ind. to meet Larry and Ann and to learn that Kathy’s father died at age 55 in 1972.
Because a state law changed in 2018, adoptees born before 1994 could request birth records, so Kathy completed the paperwork and was told to expect a response within six months.
A year later, a manilla envelope arrived from the State Department of Health.
“I open the envelope and there’s no cover letter,” Kathy said with a laugh. “It’s just ‘boom!’ It was my birth certificate. And then, I knew who my birth mother was.”
Kathy sent an excited text to Ann.
“Within 24 hours, Ann found information,” she said. “My mother had passed. But Ann said, ‘You have six siblings.’”
Kathy’s biological mother, Cookie Gooch of Elwood, was a single, 23-year-old mother of three when she had an affair with Brewer, who was 40 and married.
All but one of the six new siblings reside in Indianapolis.
But they grew up believing that Kathy died at birth.
She doesn’t resent Cookie for that lie. She doesn’t resent being placed for adoption, either.
Gaining a huge family outweighs any judgment against Cookie.
Not long after Ann’s detective work, Kathy remembered a woman named Cookie occasionally attending parties hosted by her friends, Bill and Johnny.
Their response to her texted questions were stunning.
Yes, her name was Cookie Gooch. Yes, she had six kids. Why?
“That was my mom,” Kathy wrote back.
A 1990 memory was equally as unbelievable.
“I realized I was Cookie’s boss when I was 30 years old and managed a McDonald’s,” said this corporate executive chef in charge of all nine Big Woods restaurants and two bars.
When Kathy first met JR, her brother from the Gooch side, “We were both wearing Hawaiian shirts,” she said with a laugh. “Then I realized I had also met him before.”
One day after Thanksgiving last year, the Jones household had their two adult children and five grandchildren in the mix like every other year.
But an extra 70 faces were also in attendance.