By Bobby Pepper/Lee County Neighbors
The earliest memory of David Jones’ life is one of him holding a baby. Jones, a Saltillo resident, was 4 when that moment was stored in his mind. He doesn’t recall the identity of the baby, but he can’t forget what he did afterward.
“I remember going across the street because Mother had left and the babies were crying and needing milk,” Jones said. “So, I went across the street to get some milk.”
The mother and the babies soon were gone from his life. Jones was put up for adoption and eventually taken in by a family in his Indiana hometown.
Jones, however, wasn’t sheltered from the fact that he was adopted. His curiosity led him to discover his birth name and the identities of his mother and five younger half-siblings.
Jones has reconnected with most of them through phone calls, emails and social networking. During a trip back home to Indiana, he met one of his half-sisters for the first time and saw his half-brother for the first time in almost 20 years.
There still are a few holes in Jones’ life story that will take more time to be filled. Some may never be.
“I’m OK with that. It is what it is,” Jones said. “The one thing I’ve taken away from it all is God definitely has had a hand in my life.”
Born David Joseph Archer on April 29, 1970, Jones was the first child of a teenage mother in Brazil, Ind., a city located about 60 miles west of Indianapolis. Archer was his mother’s maiden name. Today, he refers to his biological mother by her first name, Janice.
Jones said he and two other children – a boy and a girl – were removed from the home by the Department of Human Services when he was 4. He was adopted by a family that provided a stable home environment.
“I always knew I was adopted,” Jones said. “They never kept that from me. My parents said when I got old enough and wanted to find my birth parents, they would help me.”
At age 16, Jones saw a girl at his high school say something to his adopted father. Jones sought her out to ask what she said.
“She said they had adopted my half-brother,” Jones said.
This bit of information led Jones to find his half-brother, Jack Means, who is two years younger. Jones recalls noticing their similar physical similarities – dark hair, high cheekbones. Jack had been adopted by an uncle and aunt.
“When I met Jack, that’s when I started getting the story from his mom, and that I had three sisters and they were a lot younger,” Jones said.
Jones’ birth mother married and kept the oldest daughter, Millie, and had two more daughters, Jessica and Jennifer. Their given name is Stultz. Janice was married a second time a few years later and had a son, Kenny Shelton.
Jones enlisted in the Air Force after high school and was stationed in South Korea when Carl Stultz, the paternal grandfather of Jones’ half-sisters, died. Stultz also was a second cousin to Jones’ adopted father. Jones said his sisters reached out to his father to say they wanted to meet Jones.
Following his Air Force duty, Jones enrolled in Mississippi State University to study architecture. Jones, who was 23 at the time, was ready to seek out his birth mother’s identity, and his adopted mother told him. From Jack’s family, he got a phone number and called her at her home in Gary, Ind. They had arranged to meet in Indianapolis during the holiday break from college, but the plans fell through.
“She said she didn’t want to meet me,” Jones said. “That crushed my spirits. It hurt.”
Jones remained in Mississippi to start his career and family. He’s the director of Plans and Services at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg. He also continued to seek more information about his own birth family and began connecting with them.
“I kept pursuing and wound up becoming Facebook friends with all of them,” he said. “Several friends got me to Jack, and then to my sisters and then to Janice. We’ve talked a lot and stay in communication with her, but I still haven’t met her.”
The closest he’s come to meeting his mother was four years ago when he took his three sons to Florida on vacation. Janice had relocated to a city near Tampa. Jones also found out during this time that sister Jessica Garren had cancer.
When Jones reached Tampa and contacted Janice to arrange a meeting, Janice told him Jessica was too sick to travel and Jones left without seeing them. Jessica died on Jan. 25, 2010.
Jones decided in 2011 to visit Indiana during the Christmas holidays, giving him a chance to see Jennifer – the youngest of his three sisters – for the first time along with Jack, now living in Terre Haute, and other family and friends.
In a telephone interview from her home in Brazil, Ind., Jennifer Stultz said she first spoke to Jones in 2005.
“I’ve been wanting to meet him ever since,” she said. “We were never at the same place at the same time. I was nervous, but I was real eager to see him face to face and see all the things we have in common.
“When I saw him, I thought, ‘Oh, yeah. We’re definitely related’.”
Jones and his sisters also share facial similarities in the dark hair, high cheekbones and eyes. It took a few minutes before Jones and Stultz opened up to each other.
“It was awkward at first, but then we started talking about the story. To hear Jennifer’s side of the story, there are some tweaks that are a little different. But it was cool to see them and see where they are in life.”
Jones has not met Millie, who he thinks was the baby he was holding when he was 4. Millie Stultz-Campbell, who’s four years younger than Jones, resides in east Tennessee.
“She’s disappointed that she hasn’t had a chance to meet him,” Stultz said of her older sister. “I think they may have seen each other in high school, but she wasn’t sure it was him.”
Jones said he’s eager to meet Millie, Janice and Kenny someday.
“(Janice) is still in Florida,” Jones said. “The way my life is, it can happen at any time. A lot of it will probably be up to her. I don’t know where she stands on her wanting to meet me face to face. We Facebook each other and she can see pictures of her grandkids.”
Stultz believes a reunion is possible. “I’d like to see all of us get together some day,” she said. “The last time I spoke to my mom about it, she said she really wants to see him, too.”
One person Jones knows he may never meet is his biological father, and he’s accepted that fact.
“Nobody really knows who my birth father is,” he said. “Their dad (referring to the father of Jack and his sisters) says I’m his, but there’s never been any paternal testing or anything like that.
“They may be full-blooded, they may be half-blooded,” Jones added about of his siblings. “I don’t know and I don’t really care. I know they’re siblings and that’s what really matters.”