Idaho orphan searches for childhood friends

Posted at 8:33 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 00:39:13-04

Jean Johnson has seen a lot in her 87 years, but now she is beginning to see part of her life she barely knew existed.

Johnson was born Jean Miller into the Booth Memorial Home, a place where unwed mothers went to have their babies, some with their families blessing, some without, and some in complete secrecy.

"None of my family knew about me. I was just kind of hidden," said Johnson.

Johnson lived there for two years until she was sent to an orphanage and then eventually bounced from home to home. 

"I was affected by all of that, by that disconnection and the feeling that I was not wanted," said Johnson.

She never knew how she ended up an orphan until she was a young adult when the mother who abandoned her decades earlier wrote her a letter. In it, a pair of shoes from her childhood and a photograph of her and other children from the home. 

For many years, she looked at the aging photograph and wondered, longing to reach out to the other children in the photo, but she never did, wanting to protect her mother's deep dark secret, the birth of an unplanned daughter. 

"I couldn't have when she was still alive because she didn't like it," said Johnson. 

But now Johnson is determined to find those children in the photograph, and others who grew up in the home, to connect and share stories.

"It would just be nice to sit down and talk to them," said Johnson.

But Johnson is not expecting a big reunion, knowing the pain of rejection she felt, she understands other may hesitate to share. 

"I don't want to you know bring up things with them that would be painful or maybe they haven't reached a part of their life where they've accepted things as well as I have. I feel very fortunate that my life has turned out wonderful," said Johnson.

If you or someone you know is believed to be in the photograph, you are urged to contact Hilary at the Salvation Army at 208-383-4231.