Sisters finally meet, nearly 70 years after the younger one's birthWhen Frank Mooney Sr. died in September 1989, his daughter Floretta "Fritzie" Mooney went through his wallet, but not completely.
By: By Breann Schossow, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., Superior Telegram
When Frank Mooney Sr. died in September 1989, his daughter Floretta "Fritzie" Mooney went through his wallet, but not completely.
"It was like this thick," she said, showing the inch or more between a thumb and an index finger. "He carried that in his pocket."
Fast forward to six months ago, when Fritzie, now 73, finally sorted through all the contents of her dad's wallet. Among other items, she discovered a piece of paper that included three things: the name Patti Scott, Scott's address and her phone number.
"I thought, 'That's got to be my sister,' " Fritzie said. "I never knew her last name."
Eventually, Fritzie wrote a letter to Patti, kick-starting a journey for the two Eau Claire women to connect and build a relationship as sisters.
A photo of Louise Moriarity rests on a small shelf in Patti's south side home, between two candles depicting Elvis praying. Patti, 68, was born in Eau Claire and has "wonderful memories" of Moriarity, Patti's maternal grandmother, who raised her.
"She spoiled me rotten," Patti said fondly of the woman who enjoyed polka music, watched "The Lawrence Welk Show" every Saturday and called Patti "Baby."
Patti, who has several half-siblings, saw her mother occasionally while growing up. But it was her grandmother who provided her with the most enjoyable childhood memories.
"She laughed all the time," Patti said of Moriarity. "I never heard her get mad, yell, nothing. She was just a fantastic lady."
While Patti was growing up, no one talked about her father. Patti was 12 when she first started actively looking for him. Through the years she asked everyone -- aunts, uncles, neighbors, friends, friends' parents -- as she searched for information without success.
"I asked, I begged, I went to lawyers, I paid a lot of money when I was working," Patti said of efforts to locate her father.
Fritzie also came from a broken family.
Her parents divorced when she was 5. Her father, Frank, had custody of Fritzie and her brother, and the children primarily were raised by their paternal grandmother because Frank had a job in Milwaukee.
Fritzie entered the foster care system during her teenage years. While it wasn't the best experience, she found someone who truly cared for her, her last foster parent -- Delores Kenealy.
"She treated me as an equal," Fritzie said.
Fritzie entered the Air Force after graduating from Cadott High School. She eventually returned to Wisconsin in the late 1970s to get to know her father, who was in the tavern business.
"You knew he loved you even though he didn't know how to show it," Fritzie said of her dad.
When she initially discovered the piece of paper bearing Patti's name and address, Fritzie was uncertain about contacting Patti after all this time.
"So many years have gone by, and I don't want to interrupt her life," Fritzie said.
Ultimately, Fritzie decided to write a letter to Patti. In her letter, Fritzie let Patti know that if she didn't want to meet, it was OK.
Patti received the letter, which outlined why Fritzie was contacting her and noted how Fritzie had been told as a child that her father had another daughter, named Patti.
As she read the letter, Patti's emotions ranged from hurt feelings to excitement to fear.
"I ... literally grew up without a mother and a father," she said. "Nobody told me."
Patti decided not to respond to the letter, and months passed.
Last month, Mary Bauer walked into the Eau Claire Walmart store, where she ran into Patti and Patti's daughter Sam Simonson.
"Patti's been one of my best friends for years," Bauer, 68, of Eau Claire, said, noting she cried because she was so happy to see Patti.
While trading stories about their lives, Patti told Bauer about the letter from her sister.
Then, Bauer began to cry even more.
"Mary, what's the matter?" Patti asked. "Are you OK?"
Crying, Bauer responded "Patti, I know. I know Fritzie."
Earlier this year, Bauer played bingo with a group of friends that included Fritzie. While listening to others talk about a recent bus tour they had taken, Patti's name came up.
When Fritzie heard Patti's name, she told those friends that she had a sister named Patti Scott.
"I said, 'What?' " Bauer said. "In my heart, those two are so much alike. They are so warm, considerate people."
Although Bauer realized Patti was Fritzie's sister, she hesitated to tell Patti about it because she wanted to protect her friend from possible emotional pain.
Then, months later, during their Walmart meeting, Bauer explained why she was crying and about her friendship with Fritzie. Bauer then asked Patti if she would allow her to get the sisters together. Patti began to cry, too, and agreed to meet with Fritzie.
Patti laughed as she recalled crying in the store.
"People were looking at us," she said.
As Fritzie and Patti sat together Thursday in Patti's living room, Patti talked about how happy she is to have connected with her sister.
"An older sister, and don't you forget it," Fritzie playfully reminded Patti. "Respect your elders."
"Yes, dear," Patti said as they laughed together.
Bauer arranged the first meeting of the women, at Patti's house in Eau Claire a month ago. Fritzie picked Bauer up, and the friends arrived early.
"When we walked in, they just (saw) each other, and they hugged," Bauer said. "We all were crying. For four hours we sat there and talked and cried."
The minute Fritzie saw her sister, she knew for certain they were related.
"She's a Mooney," Fritzie said. "She looks like our grandmother ... she is that side of the family through and through."
Fritzie thought she and Patti would meet just once. But once they met, they knew it wouldn't be the only time.
"We've both had so much upheaval in our lives," Fritzie said, acknowledging problems and hurt she and Patti have faced, along with some positive moments and good relationships. "I actually have someone that I can feel connected to, besides ... my kids. After all these years, you can actually get on the phone and call your sister."
Bauer described the duo's first meeting as warm.
"There was no bitter feelings, no animosity," she said. "They're just so tickled to have each other."
That connection also was bolstered by the inclusion Patti said she felt when she listened to her sister talk.
"What made me feel so good was (Fritzie) kept saying 'our dad,' " Patti said.
Frank Mooney Sr. owned Mooney's Tavern, located on U.S. 12, not far east of the present-day Draganetti's in Altoona. Mooney also owned a bar in downtown Eau Claire, the Galloway Tap.
"He was just a nice man," Fritzie said, adding that she got to know her father better in his later years.
Patti met her father without realizing who he was when she played in a pool league. The sisters are fairly certain they played pool against each other in that league.
Although Patti feels good about learning her father's identity, she's left with a question that she may never have the answer to: Why didn't anyone tell her?
"It bothers me terribly," she said.
Despite that emotional pain, Patti is glad Fritzie contacted her.
"He's passed away, but I still know," Patti said.
Both women hope for an everlasting relationship with one another. Fritzie said they want to bring their families together. Patti has four children -- Sam Simonson, David Welk, Ronnie Sue Welk and Chad Scott -- while Fritzie has two -- Yvette Garcia and Keith Wilhelm. Between the sisters, they have 19 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
"At least we'll know we're family," Fritzie said.
Schossow can be reached at 715-830-5832, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)
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