Adopted Woman Searches For Long-Lost Sister, Discovers Sibling Lives Right Next Door

Searching for a long-lost relative isn't easy. People who have been adopted or otherwise separated from their birth families sometimes spend years trying to track them down. Many of these searches meet roadblocks and dead ends. Then, once in a while, it seems that all the pieces of the puzzle seem to miraculously fall into place. That's exactly what appears to have happened in the case of a woman living in Wisconsin.

Hillary Harris was adopted as an infant. She started a quest to find her birth family. After seven years of diligent searching, she didn't seem to be making much progress. The only information she had found was about a sister living in Greenwood, Wisconsin, whose name was Dawn Johnson.

Searches on social media didn't yield any information. It seemed that the search had gone cold. That's when things took an unexpected turn in 2018. Some new next-door neighbors moved in right beside Hillary and Lance Harris’ home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in January 2017. Although the sale was delayed, Dawn wouldn't take no for an answer, and so after three postponed closings, they got the house. Hillary's 5-year-old daughter, Stella, took an immediate liking to the new neighbor lady, whose first name happened to be Dawn.

Hillary was unaware of her last name. As neighbors, Hillary and Dawn were polite acquaintances but really didn't know one another very well. Hillary was surprised to learn that Dawn hailed from Greenwood, the same town as her long-lost sister. Because of the years of fruitless search, Hillary hardly dared to hope that she was the same person she had been searching for all these years.

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The amazing truth may never have been discovered if it weren't for a stack of shingles. Dawn and Kurt were redoing their roof, and so they received a stack of shingles with their name in red letters printed across. When Hillary read the name on the stack, she realized that Dawn's last name was Johnson.

“I said, ‘Oh my God!’ and then I called Lance right away,” Hillary told the Associated Press. “I told him, ‘Her name is Johnson. It’s Dawn Johnson. She’s from Greenwood. It’s got to be her.’”

But Hillary took her time before approaching Dawn. According to AP, she was worried about how her neighbor might receive the news, and so Hillary and her husband waited a couple of days. Nevertheless, it wasn't easy to act as if Hillary and Lance didn’t know something. A few days after Hillary’s epiphany, while the two couples were standing in their neighbor’s garage, she got unusually close to Dawn — perhaps to get a closer look at her.

“I was going batty because I knew the truth, and Hillary hadn’t said anything yet,” Lance told AP, “and yet I knew it wasn’t my place to be the one to say it.”

After their strange interaction in the garage, Hillary decided it was time to break the news.

“Your name is Dawn Johnson. Were you the Loyal Corn Fest queen in 1983?” Hillary asked Dawn in a text.

Hillary’s question didn’t strike her as unusual. Rather, Dawn simply thought that her neighbor was planning on making fun of her for her rural upbringing.
Hillary, of course, had other motives. After Dawn explained that yes, she had been the Corn Fest queen, Hillary asked for her father’s name. As it turned out, these two women had the same birth father, Wayne Clouse, who had died in 2010. This meant that they were long-lost half sisters. Once she had that final detail, Hillary asked whether she could talk to her half sister on the phone.

“Do you remember how I told you I was adopted?” Hillary asked on the phone.

That’s the question that finally got Dawn to realize who her next-door neighbor was. “You and me have the same dad, don’t we?” she asked before Hillary could say anything else.

Since their realizations, Dawn and Hillary are enjoying their new lives as sisters.

“We don’t care about the tangles so much, but we like how it turned out,” Dawn told AP. “This whole time since we found out has been so much fun. We’ve been making memories.”

You can also imagine the joy and surprise of both families upon finding out that not only were they neighbors but part of the same immediate family!

Lance described the coincidence as “just crazy,” while Dawn’s husband Kurt called it “incredible.” But for Hillary, it was destiny.

“For me, this is 100% fate. I was so sad when I discovered that my biological father had passed away. But by meeting Dawn I feel like I will have all the answers I will ever need,” she said.

Hillary and Dawn’s discovery also means that Stella has a special connection with Dawn, who AP reports now regularly hangs out with her aunt.

“It definitely filled a void in my life,” Hillary said.

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