published Thursday, November 15th, 2012

AT LONG LAST: Charlottes meet again

  • photo
    Charlotte Hall-Sexton, right, tracked down Charlotte Blocker, who helped Hall-Sexton's mother give birth to her.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Charlotte Blocker couldn't stay upstairs, but she couldn't stay downstairs either. The woman in the upstairs apartment was giving birth and 21-year-old Blocker didn't want to miss the big moment, but it was hard to listen to the new mom scream.

"I kept the stairs busy," she said with a laugh. "I'd stay upstairs until I couldn't stand it, then I'd go downstairs, but then I'd think I'd miss it so I'd go back upstairs. I'd never been around anybody delivering a baby before."

It was April 12, 1944, just a couple of months before D-Day. Blocker and her husband were visiting their parents in Cleveland, Tenn., on a few days' leave from the U.S. Air Force.

The baby -- a girl -- finally came and the midwife handed her to Blocker. She gave the baby a kiss, told the new mother that the girl looked like a tiny China doll and made an unusual request: Could the baby be named after her?

The mom agreed and Charlotte was officially christened. A few days later Blocker's husband's leave ended, they left town again, and Blocker lost touch with her namesake.

•••

Charlotte Sexton grew up wondering about her name. She didn't know many other Charlottes and was fascinated by the story of her birth.

"As time went on, I would always ask my mother about Charlotte Blocker," she said. "It was like we bonded, somehow, in our spirits."

Once, when Sexton was 30, she passed through Cleveland on business and decided on a whim to see if she could find Blocker. It was 1974, so she pulled over at a pay phone.

"I stood there on the side of the road and looked through this giant phone book," she said. "And I found a Blocker."

The phone rang and rang, but no one picked up.

So Sexton went on with her life, marrying, raising two girls, working. But she wondered from time to time about Charlotte Blocker. Where was she?

•••

Blocker always thought she'd raise a houseful of kids.

"I really loved children -- especially babies," she said. "My mother thought I'd grow up lopsided because I was carrying a baby on my hip all the time. Every baby in the neighborhood -- I had it, carrying it."

But after she was married, she found out she couldn't have kids.

So she worked as a secretary for years and was married to Joe for 70 years, until he died.

And throughout the years, the mystery of what happened to baby Charlotte always gnawed at her.

"I just had a question," she said. "I wondered where she is, what's she's doing, her life, her family."

•••

A few months ago, Sexton decided to try one more time to find Charlotte Blocker. Sexton, now 68, knew the odds were slim.

But her search led to a Chattanooga phone number and, before she knew it, she was on the line with a woman who answered, "Blocker residence."

"I was scared," Sexton said. "When the lady picked up the phone, I had to tell my story and I felt strange trying to tell her. You feel like you are intruding, trying to tell someone that story when you don't know them and they don't know you."

The woman on the line was not Blocker and she was skeptical of Sexton's story.

"She made me feel like I was trying to be a con artist," Sexton said. She was about to hang up when the woman told her to hold on a minute.

She turned to someone and said, "Do you know anything about a baby being named 'Charlotte' after you?'"

And through the phone Sexton heard Blocker reply, loud and clear.

"I most certainly do," she said.

Sexton started to cry.

"I could not believe I had found Charlotte Blocker," she said.

•••

On Wednesday afternoon, the pair sat on a couch in Blocker's home and celebrated their reunion.

"Sixty-eight years is a long span of time," Sexton said, her arm around the 90-year-old Blocker. "To find someone that held you in their arms that you were named after -- to me it's just like a miracle. My mother passed away, and it's just like Charlotte is my mother now."

"Well, I am," Blocker responded, grabbing Sexton's hand and holding it tight.

After Sexton made the five-hour trip from her South Carolina home to visit, the pair exchanged photos, birth certificates and gifts.

"It's amazing how similar we are," Sexton said. "It's like our spirits are connected. She plays the piano; piano is my favorite thing. She wanted to be a nurse; I wanted to be a nurse."

Blocker said reconnecting with Sexton has helped her deal with her husband's recent death.

"I feel like the timing was at hand," she said. "She's the daughter I never had, really."

Sexton introduced Blocker to her whole family and brought Christmas gifts just in case she can't get back to Chattanooga in December.

They won't lose touch again, Sexton said.

"I love her, and she loves me," she said, "and we just could never forget each other, could we, Charlotte?"

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury joined the Times Free Press as a business reporter in January 2013, after starting with the paper as a general assignment intern in July 2012. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint Hill Times. Outside the newsroom, Shelly enjoys ...

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