|On June 30, 1967, Sheryl Kapala’s mother carefully swaddled her newborn daughter and gently laid her on the front seat of an automobile parked outside a Waukegan, Ill, hospital.|
And then she disappeared.
Just shy of 47 years later, Kapala’s quest for her birth parents has stretched from the Chicago suburbs to the Wisconsin northwoods and perhaps Langlade County.
“I’m searching for answers to the questions I’ve had for my whole life, and I’m hoping that one day I will find them,” Kapala said. “I hope my birth mother is alive and well. If not, I hope she had a good life, a loving life filled with wonder, in short, a happy life.”
Labeled “Little Miss Anybody” by the Waukegan newspaper days after her birth, Kapala’s search for her parents has consumed two decades, but until now has focused on northeastern Illinois.
But earlier this year a company specializing in DNA matches led her to the northwoods, where she was matched to second cousins—a brother and sister—in this area.
They have been very helpful, she said, but the trail has once again gone cold.
“I’m not angry,” Kapala said. “I want to thank my mother. She so easily could have opted for another way of leaving me. Instead, she chose to place me in a place where she knew I would be found and taken care of.”
Kapala said that, even in the 1960s, it would have not been difficult for her mother to choose to terminate the pregnancy, and, in some ways, that would have been the easier solution.
“Instead she carried me for nine months, endured the physical pain of giving birth and the emotional and psychological pain of giving her daughter away,” she said. “I know without any doubt that she must have suffered greatly in doing so.”
According to the report filed with the Waukegan Police Department, Kapala was found by an off-duty employee outside St. Therese Hospital shortly before 9 p.m. on that evening 46 years ago. The woman had come to the hospital to visit a patient.
“The complainant stated that she is a ward clerk at the hospital and had stopped off at the hospital briefly and had parked her auto in the west parking lot and had stayed about 15 to 20 minutes and returned to her auto,” the report said. “Lying on the front seat under the steering wheel were some blankets. She stated she opened the blankets and observed a baby wrapped in them.”
Kapala’s umbilical cord had been tied with what the police labeled as “store” string and she still had wet mucus on various parts of her body and some blood on her head. There was no ink on her feet to indicate she had been footprinted. Doctors estimated she was between two and four hours old and, at just 4 pounds, 6 ounces, had probably been more about four weeks premature.
The baby was taken to the third floor pediatrics for normal care.
“On our departure, the attending nurses had already nicknamed the baby ‘MARY’,” the report said.
Quickly adopted, Kapala said she has a fantastic family whom she loves deeply, and the entire experience was key to making her the strong person she is today. But she has always had a deep-seated desire to learn her true self-identity.
“For years I have wondered things like what nationality I am. Where did I get my passion for cooking? Things as simple as who do I look like,” she said. “Now that I am closer than I have been regarding my search, we just need that boost.”
Kapala has established a Facebook page, “lilmissanybody,” with information about her search and invited people who may have clues about her family to visit it.
“Whoever my birth parents are, they placed me that day where they knew I would be found and taken care of,” she said. “I hold no ill feelings. I’m grateful I wasn’t just thrown away. I just would like to fill in the missing pieces of my identity.”
In the top photo, Sheryl Kapala and her husband, John, in a recent photo. The lower photo shows a clipping from the Waukegan newspaper from July 3, 1967, labeling her “Little Miss Anybody.”