Warwick, RI (WPRI) - Joe DiNocco's quest lasted decades but the smile on his face and the tears in his eyes seemed to be proof that the wait was worth it.
"I don't have words to explain what I'm feeling," DiNocco said after hugging the sister he never knew he had until July. "Amazing!"
That hug and many others that followed became possible after a Street Story about DiNocco's ordeal was forwarded to Southwest Airlines by his family. The carrier provided DiNocco with free round trip tickets to come back to Rhode Island from his home in Florida.
Mary Andreano gave birth to him 67 years ago when she was 17 years old but her parents demanded that she give him up for adoption. Before she relented, she named him Joe but he never knew his birth name until a Rhode Island law was changed and put on the books in July.
"That was the first step," DiNocco's daughter Rhonda Correll said.
DiNocco retrieved his birth certificate on the day the law was signed and soon Correll was on the internet and DiNocco was on the phone to people he thought were strangers. One of the calls went to Manny 'Buddy' Vincent Jr.
"I said if Manny Vincent of East Providence is your father," Vincent explained after taking his turn giving Joe a welcome to the family hug. "Then, I'm your brother."
The truly odd, Rhode Island type twist to this story is that Joe and Buddy worked together for the City of Providence back in the 60's.
"I think I saw him every day but I never knew. Never thought he was my brother," DiNocco said.
And on top of that, his brother from his adoptive family also worked with Vincent for about 20 years, never knowing about their connection.
"Bizarre," Vincent said. "I feel like I won a lottery."
The new and yet old branches on DiNocco's family tree include 8 biological siblings and 4 of them are still alive.
"My sister," DiNocco said, with tears running down his face after hugging Trisha Lambert of West Warwick. "I'm never letting go."
Lambert said that her late mother talked often about baby Joe and tried to find him, considering Joe 'a missing piece to a puzzle'. But the searches always led to dead ends.
"I think she knows," Lambert said with watery eyes. "I think she's here right now."
Rhode Island is 1 of 3 New England states that changed their laws regarding adoptee birth certificates, joining Maine and New Hampshire. Connecticut is debating a similar change.
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