Albuquerque Journal, Friday, March 4,
N.M. Loses Champion of
Last fall, when I met the unsinkable Sally
File, champion of adoptees and healer of holes in hearts, she was two years
into the life she was supposed to have already lost to Stage IV lung
Im still here, she said with
a wink and a smile back then. Im not in pain, just some trouble
breathing. Im just going with the flow, and I know that God has a plan
That was File, a deeply religious woman with
a sense of lightness and purpose, even if she didnt always know what
that purpose was.
But the one she did know, the one she had devoted
much of her life to, was helping adoptees like her find their birth parents.
She started Operation Identity in 1979 and was instrumental in easing New
Mexicos adoption laws to allow willing adoptees and birth parents to
find each other.
Everybody, she said, deserves
to know where they came from.
Because of File, more than 8,000 families have
been reunited across the country, though File stopped counting at 3,000.
She was still going with the flow until Feb.
23 when she breathed her last. She was 66.
Memorial services were held earlier this week
at Albuquerques Eastern Hills Baptist Church, packed with people whose
lives had been made betterand, in many cases, made wholeby knowing
Im grateful I had the chance.
And so is Pam Maggio.
She was a high school senior in 1967 when she
was whisked away to a home for unwed mothers in Albuquerque to avoid a scandal
back in Farmington. Her boyfriend, her sisters, her friends had no idea where
she was when she gave birth alone and frightened that June to a baby boy
she was allowed to see once through the glass of a hospital nursery, then
The social workers kept telling us,
You will forget this ever happened. You will go on with your life.
This will be behind you. Youll be fine, Maggio said.
When I went home, no one ever mentioned a thing about the baby. And
so I thought, well, this is something I needed to
For 30 years, she tried.
But in April 1997, Maggio, by then a married
Santa Fe paralegal with two sons, read a newspaper article on adoption searches
that mentioned File and Operation Identity, and she knew she could never
really forget that baby boy.
Now, she didnt have to.
Under New Mexico law, adoption records are
sealed. But under the revision of the statute that File helped craft, parties
can petition the court to unseal the records and have them turned over to
a certified court-appointed intermediary. The intermediary then attempts
to locate the missing adoptee or birth parent and, if both parties grant
their permission, facilitates reunification.
File and Ann House, her longtime colleague
and the woman who continues to keep Operation Identity running, were among
the first intermediaries appointed in the state.
Maggios sons file was unsealed
and given to Operation Identity on Aug. 4, 1997.
Two days later, they found him in Virginia.
A few days after that, mother and son were chatting with each other for the
The process that Sally fought so hard
for gave me peace in my life for the first time in 30 years, she said.
I was no longer restless and living with the feeling that I had forgotten
Maggio and son Tim have been close ever
We look a lot alike, she said.
We were both English majors in college, both love reading and music.
Its pretty amazing.
At last Tuesdays memorial service, friends
and relatives recounted similar stories about a woman whose joy and compassion
were contagious and whose gorgeous Northeast Heights home was filled with
boxes of the city directories she used to track down adoptees and birth parents
before the days of the Internet.
She stayed up endless nights after she
tucked me in bed, searching for people, her son, Jason File, told the
congregation. Her passion for this searching stemmed from her being
Sally had been Linda Adele, the newborn of
a teenage girl forced to give her away. She was adopted by Earl and Sarah
Louthan, given a new name and a happy life.
Still, File had questions.
I wanted to know who I looked like,
she told me. I was so different in size, in color, in the way I learned
and the way I acted than my family. I felt like a square peg trying to fit
into a round hole.
In 1994, she found her birth mother, Pat Reidy,
in Brandon, Fla. As I sat with them in Files backyard last fall, it
was as if they had never been apart.
They possessed the same bounteous belly laugh.
They spoke in the same incessant, ebullient way, heads bobbing, hands
She is my very best new friend,
Even then, they knew there wasnt much
After my column on the women was published
Oct. 4, I received an e-mail from Maggio about how File and Operation Identity
had given her the gift of her son:
I will forever be indebted to them, and
because my emotions ran so high at that time, I dont think I ever took
the opportunity to thank them enough for what they did for us, she
wrote. Now I can.
I have the feeling that Sally File already
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