A small crowd gathered around Craig Blair as he nervously waited to greet his mom at Glacier International Airport in Kalispell Oct. 16. His small, hand-written sign had drawn a number curious onlookers to the event he had waited for all his life. The sign said simply, “Mom, I’ve been waiting 54 years to meet you!”
Growing up in Columbia Falls, Craig’s parents Donald and Marion Blair had always told him how they had adopted him as a small baby and that his birth mother had given him up in the hopes he would find a better life than the one she could provide.
Try as he may, Craig was unable to find out anything about his biological family, as his adoption records had been sealed by the state and could not be opened without a valid reason.
Then came the gift.
In the hopes that it would help him find out more about his biological family, Craig’s sister gave him an Ancestry.com DNA kit. It was a gift that would change his life forever.
When Craig received the results of his DNA test in late September, he went to the Ancestry.com website and nervously opened his family tree to see what he would find. To his amazement, the first relative that it showed was labeled “Biological Mother.”
“I figured maybe the DNA kit would give me some clues that would help me learn more about my birth family, but I never dreamed it would lead to this,” Craig said. “Right at the top of the list where they match you to other people with your DNA was a picture labeled biological mother. Below her was a sister and another close relative. I couldn’t believe it.”
Unfortunately for Craig, other than a name, he could get no other information on the person listed as his birth mother to the account’s privacy settings. Undeterred, a simple name search and friend request on Facebook finally led to the contact he had been seeking his entire life, his biological mother, Janice Haagenson Tauscher.
Janice Haagenson Tauscher’s search for her son started 54 years ago, shortly after she made the decision to give him up for adoption. Born in Lakeside and raised in the Flathead Valley, Tauscher was an unwed mother of two when she became pregnant with Craig while living near Great Falls. When Craig’s father left her, she felt that she would be unable to raise a third child on her own, so she put Craig up for adoption in the hopes that he would find a good family to raise him. Not long after, Craig’s father, Edwin “Bud” Haagenson, came back into the picture, telling Tauscher that he wanted to marry her and that she should find Craig, if possible. Unfortunately, that was not possible. Try as she might, Tauscher could not unseal the records of the adoption.
Tauscher’s marriage to Haagenson did not last, but she never stopped looking for her son, though the prospects were bleak.
She never told her children about their long lost sibling, but, by accident, they found out anyway. The search began anew with redoubled efforts. Still no luck.
Again, it was the gift of an Ancestry.com DNA kit that led to the breakthrough. For Christmas, Tauscher gave her family DNA kits in the hopes that it would lead to finding their brother. The results came back without a match, but that was only until Craig joined the site.
Tauscher said she almost didn’t respond to the odd friend request from a person she had never heard of.
“When the message came in, I wasn’t going to read it at first because I just thought it was someone I didn’t know wanting to be my friend. When I saw the part that said DNA, I thought I had better read it,” she said. “Then I was freaking out. I couldn’t believe it at first and then I started crying.”
For a nervous Craig Blair, it was a dream come true.
“She was shocked and happy and said she couldn’t believe what she was reading. She said she had always loved me, but she wanted me to have a better life than she felt she could have provided,” he said. “It was almost the exact same words my adoptive parents always used when I was growing up.”
In no time at all, Craig learned that he had two full siblings – a brother and a sister – as well as two half sisters. Later that evening, a conference call was set up so his family could answer his questions and fill in the blanks that had eluded him his entire life.
Craig’s life in Columbia Falls and the Flathead Valley turned out to be a bigger connection to his biological family than he could ever have imagined. He learned that not only was his mother born and raised here, he drives by the house she where she was born in Lakeside everyday on his way to work at Youth With a Mission (YWAM). From the kitchen sink at his house in Columbia Falls, Craig’s window offers an excellent view of the house where his great aunt and uncle lived. It even turns out there is an excellent chance the two have spotted each other over the years.
“She told me she would often come back to town for class reunions and would sometimes go to parades here in Columbia Falls for Heritage Days,” Craig said about Tauscher. “She said it would have been in 1970 and 1980. I looked back through my stuff and found that 1980 was the first Heritage Days and I was on the prize-winning float for the 4H Club. She had to have seen me. My picture was in the paper.”
Mother and son made the most of their time together as Tauscher visited for a week in October, visiting the house where Tauscher was born (which is up for sale), several other places in the Valley where she lived as well as the North Fork. The pair even took in a Glacier Symphony performance. And, of course, Craig’s two families finally got to meet one another.
“It’s been a blessing, to be sure. I never knew if I would ever find my birth mother. I wondered what it would be like if I did find her. I just wanted the opportunity to tell her that I wound up with a great family and that I turned out okay,” Craig said. “I always hoped that my biological family would be followers of Jesus and I found out that they all are. All of my prayers have truly been answered.”
Craig has plans to travel to Oregon later this month to spend Thanksgiving with his newly-found family.