By Kendal Groner
For over 70 years, Gary McMullen thought he only had two sisters. Gary, who is nearing his 75th birthday, was taken by surprise when his older sister Judy Nuttle informed him that they had a half-sister named Pamela Auvil living in Pennsylvania who had been adopted at birth.
Pamela, who is now 71, had found her original birth certificate, and on it she saw the name Tresa McMullen listed as her birth mother. Tresa had passed away several years ago, and it was through her obituary that Pamela discovered she had siblings.
“She had been trying to find out if she had siblings for a long time, and come to find out she did,” said Wanda McMullen, Gary’s wife of 50 years.
Gary, a former CSX Railroad employee, was raised predominately by his father and stepmother after his parents divorced. Following his parent’s divorce, Tresa had become pregnant with Pamela and given her up for adoption before remarrying.
“It was never mentioned that they had another sibling … never,” Wanda said.
Gary’s younger sister Sharon McConnell is deceased, but Pamela had reached out to his other sister Judy who is living in Michigan, where Gary is originally from. Pamela stayed with Judy, and then reached out to the McMullens to try and arrange a meeting.
“It just took me by such a surprise when Judy told me about her,” Gary said. “I mean I didn’t know a thing about her. When Judy found out about Pamela, she was so excited that we had another sister.”
Pamela’s adoptive mother is battling health issues and is being cared for by her other daughter in North Carolina. Pamela has frequently made trips from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to see her mother, each time passing the Erwin exit, where unbeknownst to her, she had a brother living.
“Pamela said she had come through Erwin many times, and had no idea she had a brother living just off 81,” Gary said.
Gary, Pamela and Wanda all had the opportunity to meet for first time several weeks ago when Pamela stopped by on her way to North Carolina.
“She was standing outside of her car waiting for me, and she looked just like my sister that had passed away,” Gary told The Erwin Record. “I just stepped out and gave her a big hug. I was tickled to death to see her.”
Wanda said that as soon as she saw Pamela, there was no doubt in her mind that she and Gary were siblings. She was taken aback by how much Pamela resembled Gary’s mother and sister Sharon.
“To hear her walk and talk, you would think it was his mother .. .I mean it was unreal,” Wanda said. “It blew my mind. She was even built like his mother. She just fit right in.”
The first time Pamela visited, they all spent hours catching up on years worth of memories. Pamela shared about her career in real estate, her own children, and her other two siblings through her adoptive mother.
“She talked like she really had a good life with her adopted family,” Gary said. “I guess it all just really caught me by surprise because when mom and dad divorced we were young and really didn’t understand what was going on at the time.”
Gary said it was somewhat of a difficult time because his mother had to let his father care for him and his sisters because she was unable to at the time.
“It was just like having your mom and Sharon around when she visited,” Wanda told her husband.
Gary and Wanda have two children and four grandchildren; their son John McMullen lives in Florida, and their daughter Dionysia Bryant lives in Jonesborough. The second time Pamela came through to visit, she was able to meet Dionysia and the McMullen’s grandsons.
“My daughter, she loved Sharon so much, and when she saw how much Pamela resembled Sharon, it was ‘Aunt Pam this and Aunt Pam that’ after they met,” Wanda said.
Gary said that Dionysia made a special effort to be there the second time Pamela came through, and made sure to bring her sons with her.
“Pamela was fascinated with the boys,” said Wanda.
It was nearing Thanksgiving the last time Pamela visited, and Wanda made a special dinner to celebrate the occasion.
“I had her a big Thanksgiving dinner made, which she really enjoyed,” she said. “We stayed up late into the night and sat in the living room and just talked. She stayed overnight that second time, and we really got a lot of talking done then,” added Gary.
The McMullen’s have since stayed in contact with Pamela and are looking forward to her next visit where they can spend some more quality time with one another.
“Pamela will hopefully be passing through again around Christmas time,” said Gary. “She really is a great person.”