All her life, Rita Betush yearned for a sister.
She grew up in southwestern Virginia with her parents and an older brother, and also lived apart from two half-sisters and one half-brother. At a young age, Mrs. Betush, now 68 and living in Tarentum, learned that she did, in fact, have a sister.
Her parents, however, didn't know where to find the child they had named Helen.
Helen was born in 1938 to Clarence Hawks and Callie Rose Haga, a divorced woman with three children who worked as a housekeeper for Mr. Hawks' family.
Helen was adopted after the Hawks family made it clear to Ms. Haga, who was not married to the young Mr. Hawks at the time, that if she wanted to keep her job, she could not keep the baby.
The next year, Ms. Haga and Mr. Hawks were married, and they had a son, John, and a daughter, Rita. They tried to track down Helen, twice hiring a private investigator, but had no luck finding her. Neither could her brother, John, who went searching for his sister in the 1970s.
As the years went by, Mrs. Betush's parents died, and so did John, her half-brother and one of her half-sisters. Mrs. Betush married, moved to Pennsylvania and had two daughters and five grandchildren, all the while thinking frequently about her sister.
"I would always be looking at people, and if they looked like me a little bit, I would wonder if that was my sister," she said.
In August, Mrs. Betush was sitting in her home, doing a jigsaw puzzle, when a phone call helped the final piece fall into place. It was a social worker from Children's Home Society of Virginia, calling to say that her sister was looking for her.
"I couldn't believe it," Mrs. Betush said in an interview today. "After all these years, I thought she was either dead, or maybe she didn't want to be found, or maybe she didn't know about it."
Her sister did know about her adoption, though, and she'd been looking for her birth family for a decade.
Her name isn't Helen, Mrs. Betush said, but is Judy Bottomley, 74, of Mesa, Ariz. She is married, with a son, an adopted daughter, a foster daughter and 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
The two women have discovered, through about 20 emails and several phone calls since August, that both like to cook and enjoy nature and camping. Mrs. Betush said they both have their father's nose.
"She is such a sweetheart," Mrs. Betush said. "I just love her to pieces."
They will meet for the first time in February, when Mrs. Betush and her husband, Bob, plan to fly to Arizona for a two-week visit.
"It's going to be a lot of hugging, a lot of talking. Probably some tears, some happy ones," Mrs. Betush said. "Probably just talking about things that we haven't talked about before."
Just as sisters do.