No one finds it easy to sift through the personal items of a loved one who has passed away. It’s difficult not to think of them, the good times had, and how much you miss them. It is an important part of moving on, though. If not, then you have a constant reminder lingering and telling you that they are no longer around.
You never know what you might find when doing this task and you might learn that you didn’t know the person as well as you though. It turns out that nearly everyone has a secret or two just waiting to be exposed. Chances are they hid things because they didn’t want others to know. In the end, even those secrets that they took to the grave usually come out at some point postmortem.
Tony was shocked when he began digging through his late wife’s belongings and he found something he’d never seen before. It was a letter that had been addressed to him and left unopened for 50 years. She had kept it hidden from him all those years because she hadn’t wanted him to discover its contents, and there was a good reason for that.
His wife passed away
Tony Trapani and his wife were married for more than 50 years. So when she passed, Tony was understandably devastated and had to adjust to life on his own after half a century of spending every day with the woman he loved.
After she died, Tony went to her filing cabinet and began clearing out her things. While going through her possessions, Tony came across something very surprising that he never would have expected.
A hidden letter
What Tony discovered was a handwritten letter that his wife had written. The letter had a date on the top that read 1959, which means Tony’s wife had kept the letter a secret from him all of those years.
After reading the letter, Tony was left stunned that his wife would keep it from him. The letter contained confidential information about his life that she chose to keep concealed from Tony for the entirety of their marriage.
They had no children
The Trapani’s had a long and loving marriage but they were missing one piece of the relationship that they both longed for. Although they tried for many years, Tony’s wife was unable to conceive a child which left both her and her husband devastated.
They remained childless and continued to long for the day when they would be able to care for a baby of their own.
What is in vitro fertilization
When Tony and his wife were trying for a child in the 1950s, there was no in vitro fertilization, as the technique was only invented in the late 1970s. This medical breakthrough has enabled millions of couples to have children and start families.
The way that it works is that a sperm cell and an egg are fertilized in a “test tube” in a laboratory for a few days, creating a zygote. Then the zygote is injected into a woman’s uterus where a baby will grow from the zygote.
Finding the letter
However, the two still had a strong marriage and after Tony’s wife passed away, he was upset and went to clean out his wife’s things. While he was sorting through her filing cabinet, he found the letter at the back of a drawer.
The letter was obviously meant to be hidden as Trapani had completely missed the letter when he first cleaned out the cabinet. He only discovered it by accident after going to the cabinet on a different occasion.
Life changing news
The letter was still in the envelope and it had a date written of March, 1959. The letter was addressed to Tony at his home in Michigan. Clearly, his wife never gave it to him as Tony had never seen it before.
Tony opened the letter and began to read its contents. He was stunned to read what his wife had hidden as the letter revealed a truly life changing fact. But what could it have been?
The letter began innocent enough. It read, “Dear Tony, I bet you are surprised to hear from me after so many years. I was just thinking about you tonight like so many other nights.
But I thought I would write you and find out how you are.” But then he realized the letter turned out to not be from Tony’s wife, it was from a woman he had gone out with before he was married.
Tony had a son
In the next paragraph, Tony’s ex-girlfriend revealed a stunning revelation that would change Tony’s life forever. She explained, “Tony, please don’t be angry or surprised to hear this.
I have a little boy. He is five years old now – gray eyes and beautiful black hair. What I am trying to say, Tony, is he is your son.” Tony could not believe what he had read but he continued to read.
Asking for forgiveness
His ex-girlfriend continued and wrote, “Please, Tony, if you can find it in your heart to forgive me, please come and see him. Every day he asks me where is his daddy and believe me, Tony, I can’t even answer him anymore. I would be forever grateful to you if you would just see him. I’ll close now, hoping and praying you will answer.”
Why did she keep it?
There are many reasons why Tony’s wife may have kept the letter hidden away from him as opposed to simply throwing out the letter when it arrived at the family home in Grand Rapids, Michigan over 50 years ago.
One prevailing theory is that while she was sad that her husband had a child with someone else and did not want that child to be a part of her family, somewhere deep inside of her she wanted Tony to know about his son.
Searching for his son
Tony was surprised to hear the news that he possessed a son he never knew existed. He assumed that his wife opened the letter when she received the mail and read it. Tony believes that she did not want him to know and subsequently hid the letter in her filing cabinet.
But now that Tony knew the truth, he decided he had to search for his son. This would lead Tony to discover another surprising revelation.
Making things right
Tony knew that he had to find his son and make things right. Although he was unaware that he was a father for most of his life, he felt a strong desire to find out who his son was.
The first thing Trapani did was search for his ex-girlfriend’s name which she had given in her letter. Luckily, the mother of his child had also written her son’s name.
The woman’s name was Shirley Childress and she and Tony had dated before he ultimately met and married his wife. In the letter, Shirley wrote that their child’s name was Samuel Duane.
Tony’s sister named Arlene Schulte decided to research him on the Internet and began looking for his son on Facebook including potential connections to his son or other relatives of Samuel. Tony was one step closer to finding his son.
Become your own private investigator
It is incredibly easy to find anyone and everyone, using a few minutes on the internet. You can find out someone’s name on Facebook, look at their Instagram pictures to see what their eating and travel habits, go onto LinkedIn to find out what (and where) their job is, and much more.
You can even type their name into Google and find their phone number along with their address in the whitepages. All with no cost to yourself.
What does he look like?
Tony’s son Samuel Duane Childress, grew up without knowing who his father was and lived alone with his mother in Pennsylvania. Samuel was curious about who his father was and he would often ask his mother about what Tony was like.
In an interview with Fox in 2015 Samuel said, “I always asked my mom, I said, ‘Well, what does he look like?’ She said, ‘Well, go look in the mirror.’”
Samuel was aware that his mother had written to Tony about him when he was 5 years-old. His mother Shirley wrote to Tony as a plea for him to meet Samuel and ask for forgiveness.
However, after they received no response from Tony, Samuel believe that Trapani did not care about him or rejected him. As a result, Samuel Duane did not have a positive opinion of his father. However, he was unaware that his father had never seen the letter.
Hoping to meet him
Throughout Samuel Duane’s life, he dreamt of meeting his father and although the meeting seemed unlikely to ever occur, Samuel still had hope that he would one day meet his father.
However, his hope, however, was starting to diminish as his father had not contacted him for over 50 years. His hope was realized after Tony’s sister messaged Samuel’s wife on Facebook. The father and son were about to meet for the very first time.
Fill the void
Childress was 63 when he met his father for the first time in his life in January of 2015. The meeting was very emotional and one reason for that was because for all of his life, Samuel believed that his father did not care about him.
However, he know knew that his father would have had a relationship with him had he known about his son. Childress said,“just to know him now is so important to me. It’s going to fill that void.”
The child he never had
While the meeting offered some much needed closure for Samuel, for Tony it was the chance for him to build a relationship with the child he had always wished for in his marriage.
He and his wife could never have a child but Tony never knew he was the father of a child all along. Trapani was very emotional in the first meeting and said, “He’s my full son that I’ve had my whole life, but why my wife hid that letter is beyond me.”
The long overdue meeting was especially emotional for Tony. One can only imagine how difficult it would be the meet their child they just discovered they had.
What made it even more devastating was the fact that Tony only met his son when he was 83 years-old and had missed out on so much time with him. Tony could not understand why his wife would have kept this life changing letter from him.
Meeting his newborn son
When he was meeting his son for the first time, Tony was visibly emotional and was overwhelmed in the moment. Meeting his son was a very profound experience for Tony and he felt like his dream of having a child was finally realized.
When the interviewers asked Tony how he was feeling Tony responded, “How does anybody feel when they have a newborn son?”
The results of the paternity test took two weeks to come back and in the meantime, Childress and Trapani were building a relationship and getting to know more about one another.
However, when the results were found in February of 2015, their emotional ride was about to get even more emotional. Neither Childress or Trapani were prepared to hear the results of the paternity test.
However, the father son pair did not only want to rely on a letter to confirm their relation. Trapani and Childress decided that it would be beneficial for them to have a paternity test done to assert Shirley’s assumption that Samuel was Tony’s son.
The two, however, were already convinced that they were indeed related and that Shirley Childress was correct. They both felt that they had a lot of time to make up after over 60 years of not knowing one another.
One and the same
Before the paternity test was to take place, news reporters sat down and spoke to the Childress’s as well as with Tony. Along with the couple and the potential father were Samuel and his wife Donna’s three grown children who themselves had never known a paternal grandparent.
As Donna said, “to meet Tony and what I’ve known of Tony so far and I know my husband, they’re one in the same – they are one in the same.”
How paternity tests work
Paternity tests are done in order to definitively determine that one man’s genes are inside of another human. The way that a test happens is that both the child and the man have the inside of their cheeks swabbed by special swabs which look like (but are not) cotton swabs.
The cheek cells stick to the swab, and the genes within the two swab are then compared by genome sequencing. If the genes match, then the man is the father.
Samuel was devastated
Surprisingly, the results of the paternity test were negative. Samuel and Tony could not believe the news that they were not related in any form. Samuel Duane was very understandably devastated at the news that Tony was not his father.
After living his whole life not knowing who his father was, Samuel was finally given an answer only to have his closure taken away from him shortly after meeting the man he thought was his father.
He was so sure
Samuel was stunned at the news that Tony was not his real father and it sent him back to where he was before, wondering who his father was. He told Fox, “It’s kind of shocked me a little bit.”
Childress continued, “Instead of being 99 percent, it was zero and it kind of set me back. I mean, it’s just like a shock to me.” But there is actually some good new to come out of this situation.
Keeping in touch
Despite the fact that the paternity test results came back negative, Childress and Trapani have decided to remain connected. The two bonded in the short time they had spent together and they wanted to keep a relationship even though they were not technically father and son.
Tony finally had the child he longed for and Samuel found a father figure and it did not matter to them that they were not actually related.
You are my son
Their relationship was so close that Childress even said that he did not want to continue searching for his biological father. Tony became the father figure in Samuel’s life that he was always looking for.
He said in an interview, “I call him every day. And talking to him, he says the same thing about the result.” Tony said to Samuel, “It doesn’t matter what [it] says, I know you are my son.”
Does it matter anyway?
There were many ethical questions to be answered once it was discovered that Tony was not, in fact, the father or Samuel Childress. The fact of the matter is that Tony really wanted a son while Samuel really wanted a father.
While the relationship between the two is solely based on the fact that Tony dated Sam’s mother at one point in the 1950s, the two men have formed a close bond and are willing to label each other as father and son.
No real bond
According to Tony Trapani’s sister Arlene Schulte, there is no real bond between Tony and Samuel. She says that the two were never really alone together, and that she is not sure that the bond that they talk about is really that strong.
Schulte does acknowledge that it is really unfortunate that the two had some sort of “closure” which was subsequently taken away from them, but that any bond they have is just a ruse.
Pretending to be family
There are a lot of people who are down on their luck and need money fast. Sometimes, these people will take to scamming the elderly in order to get a bit of cash.
There is speculation that Samuel happened to be in this position when Tony’s sister contacted him on Facebook. People say that he may have seen an opportunity to get some money out of a depressed and lonely old man. Samuel denies these allegations.
The end of the search
Samuel says that he has searched long and hard for his father, and Tony says that he is happy that he finally has a son to call his own. Despite the fact that the two are not actually related by blood, the two do not seem to mind, and they have decided that this is where their journey ends.
In fact, Samuel has even gone on record as saying that Tony will be the only man he calls “dad.”
Leave him alone!
Arlene says that while she is happy for her brother and for Samuel for getting together, she does not believe that it is healthy for the two of them to continue to pretend to be father and son.
In fact, she still has her suspicions about Samuel, and has said that she prefers that Samuel leave Tony alone. She believes that the two should separate. However, Samuel and Tony seem happy to have each other. In the end, isn’t that what matters most?
A huge loss
The couple knew that Tony probably did not have long for this world, and so they began plans to try to move from Williamsport, PA to Grand Rapids, MI in order to be closer to Tony.
However, in the middle of all of their plans, disaster struck. On the evening of June 23, 2015 Donna Childress was rushed to the hospital. She sadly did not make it through the night, and died the next day on June 24th, devastating Samuel.
A short lived relationship
Two years later, on March 11, 2017, Tony Trapani himself passed away at the age of 83. This was yet another shock to Samuel who had lost both his wife and his “father” in such a short period of time.
Despite the fact that the two were not necessarily related by blood, the two found solace in each other and in their relationship. While Samuel does still have his children, at least he was able to have some sort of a father figure for a short amount of time.
Searching for dad
One of the things about us as humans is that we always want to know our story. We want to know how we are connected, both to the greater whole but also to which tribe and segment of humanity.
It is for that reason that people who were adopted or only grew up with one birth parent very often try to find out about their biological progenitors. It is an innate human urge to know our history and where we fit in.
Happiness with a first born son
According to an article published in Psychology Today, a marriage is more likely to be a happy one the more sons there are. In fact, if the first born child is a son, then the marriage is actually more likely than not to remain a happy one, even with the mother.
A hypothesized reason for this is because a father will more likely want to be around to help raise a son in their image than a daughter. However, these results are not definite.
Consequences of growing up fatherless
Researchers from McGill University in Canada have discovered that growing up without a father can permanently alter the brain. Some of the things which they noticed is that people who grow up with a single mother are typically angrier and more aggressive than those who grow up with two parents (either together or divorced).
There is also an increased risk that the child will have “deviant behavior” compared to their peers.
Big Brother programs
The Big Brother and Big Sister’s program is a program which has helped millions of children all over the world reach their full potential. The program sets up older mentors with at risk youth in an attempt to keep the kids out of trouble and show them a new and better way to live.
In fact, kids who go through with the program are more likely to succeed, less likely to skip school, and less likely to try and abuse illegal substances.