New neighbors in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, started off as complete strangers. But after learning nothing more than a name, the two women ended up closer than either could have imagined.
Hillary Harris said she was raised in a loving home by the couple who adopted her when she was just a month old. But she'd always wondered about her biological family.
"I always wanted to find them. It was always in the back of my mind and I knew that eventually I would search when I was ready," Harris told CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.
That search started in earnest a few years ago when she and her husband, Lance, were expecting their daughter, Stella. Harris requested her adoption records to learn about her family's medical history.
"That had all my health history, it had a letter from my birth mother. … It also disclosed that my birth father Wayne had passed away in 2010," Harris said. "And then it had two half-sisters, Renee and Dawn… and then right here it says Dawn Johnson of Greenwood."
She found other relatives, but not Dawn. Then last year, new neighbors moved in next door, only a shared driveway away.
"[Lance] comes in and is like, 'Yeah, I met the neighbor. Her name's Dawn.' … 'Dawn from Greenwood?' … Lance is like, 'Yeah.' I'm like, 'You don't get it?' He's like, 'What are you talking about?'" Harris recalled. "And I pulled out all my adoption paperwork. And I said, 'Dawn. Greenwood. Sister, you know?' And he's like, 'Oh my gosh.'"
Harris texted her new neighbor: "Who's your birth father?"
"And I said Wayne Clouse," Johnson recalled. "And then she says, texts back, 'Oh wow, we have a lot to talk about. Can I call you?' And I said yes!"
"We're all just like, really just couldn't believe that something like this could even happen," Lance said.
Johnson said they are 19 years and 3 days apart. Though Johnson and Harris share a father, Harris was worried Johnson didn't want a sister.
"She was, like, 'Did you know? Are you mad?' And I'm like, 'God, no, I'm not mad.' I said, 'And I didn't know!'" Johnson said.
"That moment when I first embraced her in the driveway… I mean, it was amazing. It was a miracle," Harris said, adding, "I never knew I even wanted a sister. And I am so happy and so thankful to have her."
The discovery almost didn't happen. Johnson said the closing on their new house was postponed three times and that they almost walked away in frustration. But she said there was something about the house that drew her back to it.
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