Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared in the ARLnow Press Club weekend newsletter. Thank you to Press Club members for helping to fund our in-depth local features.
When Claremont resident Connie Freeman met her father last summer for the first time, it all started to make sense.
“This may sound kind of crazy and you may only know if it’s happened to you, but I felt like a puzzle piece fit,” she tells ARLnow. “I felt like I had the wrong piece in there my whole life.”
Connie Freeman is a 62-year-old county employee, working as a community outreach specialist for nearly three decades, and has lived in Arlington most of her life. And, up until last year, she had never known her father.
Her mom had gotten pregnant as a teenager in the late 1950s and her father had just never been part of their lives. But with her mom getting older, it became clear that now was the time for Connie, along with her own son Noe, to rediscover their family’s history.
Using AncestryDNA testing, together they discovered some surprising clues. For one, she was a quarter Lebanese. Considering that her mom was not Lebanese — “my grandmother has green eyes and blond hair,” says Noe — that was an interesting development. Their DNA results also turned up a name that was unfamiliar.
“At 11 o’clock at night, [my son] is emailing me, texting me, and calling me,” Connie says. ‘”Mom, I think I found your brother.'”
Using social media, Connie tracked down that person and a number of others the DNA results had cited as connected to them. Then, she made an unusual decision, at least, by today’s standards.
She reached out by handwritten letter, believing that the extra personal touch was more likely to get a response.
“The letter was very specific and it said I’m trying to find my father and, if he’s alive, I’d like to meet him,” she says.
Also included in the letter were some possible genetic and identifying details. Like, for example, her love of black olives and Noe being a fantastic soccer player. She additionally included where she was born, where she lived now, and that her mom always told her that her dad was in the military.
The letter worked. Within days, she got a call from an 84-year-old man named Richard Ziadie.
She admits getting that call was a bit surreal and hard to comprehend, but she made plans to meet Richard at his home in New Jersey on August 16, 2021 — on his 85th birthday.
When they met, it was immediately evident to Connie that this man was her father. He loved to spend time outside, in his garden, and had quite a green thumb.
“My son loved to garden as a kid and now owns his own landscaping company. Now, I know he got that from his grandfather,” she says.
He was also a people person and a fantastic host, just like his daughter.
“That’s something my mom does consistently, she always has people over,” Noe says. “They are both very charismatic.”
In photos of the three, the resemblance is also striking. Further DNA results confirmed that they were truly family, Richard was Connie’s dad.
“It all made sense,” Connie says.
In the months since, they’ve tried to catch up on the last six decades of life. In an odd happenstance, it turns out that Richard and Noe both spent time at one point working at the Mars Corporation (though, in different locations).
Connie has helped her father with his garden, presenting at a show together. Richard has come south to Arlington, meeting Noe’s son and his great grandson. They’ve also met some of Richard’s family too, attending a birthday bash for his 108-year-old aunt.
Connie says this was great because it made her realize it was in her genes to live a long and fruitful life.
“Even at 108, she can carry out a long conversation with you,” Connie says. “She was dancing at her own birthday party!”
Both Connie and Noe say exploring their genealogy and their shared history has changed their lives for the better, helping them to find the missing piece in their puzzle. Ever an Arlingtonian, she took and, now, recommends taking the free genealogy class offered by the county as well.
Just like his aunt, Richard loves to dance — specifically, the Argentine tango. When asking Connie if he’s teaching her, she laughs. That’s perhaps one of the few things they don’t have in common.
“I have two left feet,” she chuckles.
A man was shot early this morning in Clarendon and police are still looking for the suspect. The shooting happened around 2 a.m. at a parking lot along N. Highland…
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 5266 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
A water rescue operation is underway along Four Mile Run after reports of a drunk man falling down an embankment. The incident happened shortly before 4 p.m. behind the Virginia…
With the Yellow Line bridge and tunnel work complete, Metro is upping service on the line. Starting Sunday, Yellow Line trains will arrive every eight minutes all day, the transit…
Join MoCA Arlington Summer Camps at Marymount University and learn the fundamentals of handbuilding, throwing on a wheel, glazing, and much more. In this two-week course, students will explore hand building techniques, wheel throwing, and strengthen ideas that exemplify individual artist expression guided by professional working artists. Students of all skill levels are welcome!
Visit MoCA Arlington’s Website here and the registration page to secure your space today!
Please join us on Saturday, June 3, from 2 to 4 pm for the Glencarlyn Home Tour in Arlington’s historic Glencarlyn neighborhood. Among the featured homes will be a sparkling new home by A&N Builders at 5604-4th St. South. The inviting front porch opens to a light-filled space featuring high ceiling, wood floors, gas fireplace, Pella windows, Shrock cabinets, Quartz countertop, and JennAir appliances. Doors from the family room open to a large covered porch with a few steps to the level, landscaped rear yard. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms, three bathrooms, laundry room, and linen storage. The big lower level has a rec room, gym space, and a fifth bedroom and bathroom plus even more storage. After leaving the home, stroll to the Ball-Sellers home, the oldest residence in Arlington, the community gardens at the library, Carlin Hall, and the 94 acre Glencarlyn Park. A lovely way to while away a late spring afternoon.
Homebuying 101: Steps to Getting Pre-Approved
Are you ready to jump into homeownership or started considering it but don’t know where to start? Financial preparation is key when thinking about purchasing your first home and the first step to getting pre-approved.
Join ACFCU’s mortgage loan officers
4th of July Celebration & Fireworks
Treat yourself this Independence Day with a world-class, private 4th of July extravaganza at the Military Women’s Memorial – a premier National Capital Region site.
Great food, fun, and the best views of Washington DC’s spectacular fireworks display. Relax, enjoy,