Margaret Mary Thornton is looking for a half brother and sister she has never seen. This is part of a search to bring together seven children of one-time Bayonne resident Leroy Christ.
The last child born to Christ in 1962, Thornton came along after the children of her father’s previous marriage had gone to foster homes or adoption.
In the many decades since, Thornton has been haunted by the idea of finding those lost remnants of the one-time Bayonne family.
“My sister Carol and I were in touch, then lost contact in 1978.” – Margaret Thorton
Although she always wanted to find her siblings, her search began in earnest in 1978 after she lost contact with one sister, who moved out of Bayonne.
“My sister Carol and I were in touch and then lost contact in 1978,” Thorton said. “She quit writing and I always wondered why. That’s when I started looking for her and the others.”
In early March, some of Thorton’s efforts paid off when she located two of the total seven Christ children – one in a small town in Pennsylvania and another right here in Bayonne.
“I found Carol last month,” she said. “She was put up in a foster home. When she married her husband Eugene, she moved to Jersey City and I lost touch with her.”
Carol moved out of New Jersey at some point after that, making Thorton’s search more complicated.
“I remembered her last name and date of birth and a cousin of ours in Tennessee put her name in the computer and came up with Pennsylvania,” Thorton said. “When I called her up, she was very quiet.”
She said that Carol asked if this was a joke.
“I asked if she had even been to Bayonne. She said yes,” Thorne said.
If fact, some family members still lived in Bayonne, including Thornton’s aunt Gertie, who lived in public housing on 21st Street.
So did one of the siblings Thorton was searching for, Marie Libby, who was in contact with the aunt, as well.
“Carol called Gertie and suddenly Carol found two of us, Margaret, and me in the same week,” said Marie, who was also compelled by the need to bring the family together again after so many years.
Marie is one of five siblings from Christ’s first marriage to Pearl Walsh – which included Marie, Billy, and Leroy Jr.
Christ and Pearl broke up, and the five kids scattered.
“I don’t know why my parents separated. Our biological father took me and Billy and we lived at 26th Street and Prospect at the time,” Marie said.
The other children stayed with the mother until they were placed with other families. Eventually, Christ lost Marie and Billy, as well.
“Billy and I went to an orphanage in 1950,” Marie said. “We stayed there until 1956. I moved back to Bayonne in the 1960s, got married, and lived in Jersey City and other parts of Hudson County.”
Thorton and her brother, Leroy III, were born after Christ remarried in the early 1960s and never saw the other siblings.
Christ refused to talk about the fate of the other kids, taking the secret of their whereabouts (if indeed he knew them) to the grave when he died of cancer in 1994.
Still looking for two
Gertie, Christ’s sister, kept in touch with some of them over time.
Billy died in 1971. Thorton found Carol in 1977, then lost touch.
In the late 1980s, Marie began to look for Carol, but could not find her.
“I would get information about where I could find Carol, but it always came too late. I sort of gave up hope,” she said. “A month ago, Margaret Mary found Leroy in Florida.”
Initially, family members talked via telephone, connected again after more than 60 years.
“Carol remembered that Marie lived in Bayonne on Avenue C,” Thorton said. “I knew I had an aunt [Gertie] in the same building. When I found Carol, I called my aunt and told her. It’s so funny. I think I found them both in the same place.”
But Thorton said two of the siblings are still missing: Lucille, born in either 1949 or 1950, and Leroy Jr., born in 1951.
“Lucille and Leroy were possibly adopted,” Marie said.
“We need to find the other two,” she said, although the only photographs they have of the two missing siblings are as infants.
Thorton believes Lucille’s adopted name was Lesslie Hall.
Lucille is somewhere out there, because in 2001, she posted a message on one of the family genealogy sites seeking information about her parents.
“I am looking for my birth parents and I thought that this would be a good place to start,” she wrote. “I was born on April 9, 1950 in Bayonne, New Jersey. My birth name was Lucille Christ. I was put up for adoption at the age of 3 and was adopted when I was 4 and one half. I was just wondering if anyone could help.”
“Her e-mail said 1950, but she may have been born in 1949,” Thorton said.
“My family mission is that we all get in contact,” she said, hoping that anyone in Hudson County who has information will contact the newspaper so that the family might be reunited.
But the connections have already started. Gertie and Marie went to see Carol in Pennsylvania last week.
“My daughter saw Carol on the porch,” Marie said. “I was told Carol looked like my Aunt Gertie. But when I saw her, I realized she is my mother reincarnated. We grabbed a hold of each other and that was it. We started crying.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.