BIG PINEY – Marion was 23 years old
in 1967, pregnant and unmarried. She had
just graduated from the University of Wyoming
and had a teaching contract, but had
Bill, the father of the baby, and Marion
were longtime friends. When she told her
parents about her pregnancy they demanded
that she have the baby and give it up for
adoption. They told her that they would disown
her if she kept the baby.
Marion was taken to Denver, where she
lived for four months in the basement of a
stranger’s home. Her only family support
came from her older brother. The baby was
born Dec. 22. She overheard some nurses
saying that all the births that day had been
girls, so she knew the baby was a girl.
She was not supposed to see her baby, but
by mistake the Ladies’ Auxiliary brought
the child to her in a Christmas stocking. It
was agonizing for her to give up that sweet
baby. Marion’s parents came to Denver to
visit after she went back to the basement, but
they made no mention of the baby. She was
expected to move on with her life.
For the next 50 years she thought about
and prayed for that baby girl every day. She
eventually married and had another daughter.
Marion and her husband, Chuck, live on a
ranch near Douglas. She was a music teacher
in the Converse County School District until
her retirement. For 35 years her husband
watched as she silently suffered, especially
around the holidays.
Shirley and Frank Bray from Big Piney
were told they couldn’t have children. They
adopted a baby boy, and then a couple of
years later around Christmas time they
adopted a beautiful baby girl they named
Shelly. They were overcome with gratitude
and joy when baby Shelly came into their
life. A few years later they were blessed with
a biological daughter.
Shelly always knew that she was adopted.
She grew up in a loving home, had a
happy childhood and finding her biological
parents was never important to her. Sadly,
her adoptive parents passed away when she
was in her 40s. Last year a friend encouraged
Shelly to look for her birth parents.
After much thought, she began the search.
The following are text messages between
Shelly and a person that turned out to be her
On April 9 Shelly wrote: I know this is
a really strange request. I was adopted and
I just did the Ancestry DNA and it linked
me to “close family,” which named you,
Misti. Do you know anything in your family
history that might point to an adoption? It
names you as a sibling or first cousin.
Misti: I do know of an adoption. May I
ask how old you are?
Shelly: I just turned 50 in December. I
can’t stop thinking about the connection that
we have with our DNA. I am really excited
to see where it might go. I hope that with
love and open arms we can see what can
come of it.
April 11, Misti wrote: I’ve shared this
with mom, and she is thinking about it. A
conversation quite possibly could happen,
but she would like a bit of time to process it
all. Excitement and anxiety both play a part.
We realize that the timeline is right and the
DNA makes it pretty clear. I hope you have
had a wonderful life. I think that is what
mom wants more than anything!
Shelly: Thank you for sharing. I have had
a great life! I will just wait until she decides
what she is ready for. Thank you, thank you,
April 14, Misti wrote: Good morning,
Shelly. I have a serendipitous story for you.
Four days before you sent me the very first
message, I was home visiting my folks. It
was just the three of us, which never happens
and mom included “the baby” in her
dinner prayer that night. God works in mysterious
ways. She has realized this and welcomes
the opportunity. She said she is ready.
Shelly: That sounds great! I am so grateful
that this has worked out. I still can’t believe
it is happening. You have a great day
and can’t wait to get to know you!
Shelly lives in Big Piney and works as a
certified nurse’s aide at Legacy Lodge, an
assisted-living facility in Jackson.
The following is a portion of the first
communication between Shelly and her biological
Marion: Hi Shelly, I asked Misti to send
your email address because I’m not a Facebook
fan. This is our story right now. I don’t
want the whole world intruding. We together
should have the opportunity to share as we
see fit. When I first heard from Misti that
you had contacted her, the tears flowed.
Shelly: I totally agree with you. It is a
very exciting time and it’s just for us right
now. I have had so many happy tears in the
last couple weeks. It just seems so surreal.
Marion: It sure does. You have gone from
my baby to being a grandma. I have a feeling
– no, an understanding – that our first meeting
will be lots of tears. I’m looking forward
to June. BTW: How does your mom feel
about this? I don’t want her hurt.
Weather for Sublette County, WY
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Shelly Bray is pictured with
her biological father, who did
not know he had a daughter
50 years earlier.
Adoption story takes a serendipitous twist
After 50 years, parents and daughter reunited
By Connie Owen, For the Sublette Examiner
Shelly: Honestly, I wouldn’t have done
this if my mom and dad were still living.
They wouldn’t have cared because they always
told me that if I wanted to find my biological
parents they would help me. I can’t
wait to see you and hug you and cry with
you. June seems a long way away.
Marion: I know it is. I just don’t want our
time to be rushed. I’m sorry your parents
are gone. I’m so thankful for them. I wish I
could have met them and said “thank you.”
Shelly: I thank you from the bottom of
my heart, and I wouldn’t have changed one
thing. You allowed them to be parents. How
is all of your family handling this? Misti
seems very happy.
Marion: You’ll love her. My husband,
Chuck, said this morning. “Looks like you’ll
be going to Big Piney.” He has always been
When June came, Marion made the trip to
Big Piney. They spent hours trying to catch
up on 50 years. Lots of tears, mostly happy,
A couple of weeks later Shelly traveled
to Douglas to visit Marion and meet other
members of her family. Shelly visited Bend,
Ore., with Marion and Misti to meet even
more family. She has spent time with Marion
almost every other weekend since June.
Shelly also located her biological father,
Bill, through Ancestry DNA, after being
connected to her cousin Kathi. Shelly wrote
to Bill, who lives in Cheyenne, introducing
herself as his daughter. Kathi hand-delivered
Shelly traveled to Laramie in September
to attend a University of Wyoming football
game and meet Bill and Kathi. Marion
was seated just a few rows away. She and
Bill have had season tickets to UW football
games for years, always just rows apart, but
never realized it.
Shelly went to Texas with Bill and a halfsister
to meet another half sibling.
“We feel blessed to have Shelly with us
now,” Kathi said. “It feels complete.”
Coincidentally, Shelly has an adoptive
cousin who lives in Lusk. He has sung in
the church choir and played pinochle with
her biological aunt every week for years. Of
course, they had no idea what they had in
A sense of healing
“I always thought I was complete and
whole until I met my biological mom and
dad,” Shelly said. “My life has changed
more than words can explain. We serve an
awesome God, and He serves the greatest to
us, and that is love.”
“The crack in my universe has been
sealed/healed,” Marion said. “I’m so thankful
for Shelly and our wonderful God who
has led me down so many paths I thought
were wrong. He knew what was happening
all along, and I am grateful beyond words.
“I’m also thankful for my wonderful family.
Everyone of them has been so supportive
and loving to both Shelly and me. Without
their love and support all of this could have
had a different outcome.”