Life

Ancestry search not always joyful

From an early age Scott Pieper (pronounced “Pipe-er” not “Peeper”) wanted to be a mortician. He wasn’t sure why. Growing up in Monmouth, Illinois, with a mother, two brothers and a father who was a well-known and respected high school golf coach, the guidance counselor thought it odd when Scott wanted to “shadow” a mortician on Career Day. The guidance counselor advised against it and sent Scott off somewhere else. But Scott never forgot about wanting to be a mortician.

Scott’s father, Bill Pieper, was a renowned high school golf coach, leading his teams to seven state championships, including six in a row, making golf the most popular sport at Monmouth High. (Very unusual. Football is usually king.) Coach Pieper walked with a swagger that the kids emulated. Although not a great golfer himself, he believed in his kids and inspired them, making them feel like they could do anything. Never satisfied with mediocrity, his attitude bespoke tenacity with approachability. In the classroom, his biology instruction was like a stand-up Jackie Gleason routine, endearing him to students. Two dozen of the kids on his golf team went on to college level Division I. All three of his sons, Scott, Erik and Aaron, won medals at the state golf tournament. Bill Pieper was Coach of the Year many times and inducted into the Illinois Coaches Hall of Fame in 1994.

So, you can imagine what a shock it was when Scott, at the age of 47, discovered that Bill Pieper was not his real father. It was like a sinkhole opening up and swallowing him, his whole life, and everything he’d ever known about himself, including the way he looked. He’d always been told he looked like his father.

It all started when Scott’s girlfriend did an ancestry search on herself. Some startling discoveries were made, like her father had a child she wasn’t aware of. Scott decided to do the same DNA search on himself. Things just didn’t seem to jive with the dates of his parents’ wedding and the birth dates of himself and his middle brother. Bingo! There it was in black and white. Bill Pieper was not his father! His real father was a long time Burlington resident.

A ransack search of the-father-who-raised-him filing cabinet, verified the DNA results. Scott had been adopted at less than a year of age, and the adoption papers started on his middle brother, Erik. The youngest brother, Aaron, was a true son of Bill and Suzann Pieper.

Scott’s mother, Suzann, had passed away from breast cancer. So, he confronted Bill, the father who raised him. Coach Bill Pieper admitted that Scott’s mother had been married to another man previously, and that the other man was the father of Scott and Erik. Bill Pieper apologized for the lifetime of deception. He had only been trying to protect and raise the boys in a loving home. Coach Bill Pieper has since passed away at the age of 74.

It turns out that almost everyone knew the two boys were adopted, including teachers and classmates of the boys. They were the last to know.

It gets worse. In trying to track down their real father, they learned that the man, a mortician, (Ah, ha — the connection!) had passed away in 2015. They wouldn’t even get the opportunity to know who their real father was, what his handshake was like, to smell his aftershave, or ask him why he had never contacted them. What they have is a name, a few pictures, and what some other family members and friends of the man tell them.

To put it mildly, Scott is disappointed in the parents who raised him for not telling him and his brothers the truth. They love the parents that raised them; the boys were always well fed and cared for. There is just this void, a bottomless pit, that will never be filled.

Be honest with your kids.