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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2004

Family likeness bridges years, tears

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Staff Writer

Justine Frederick, left, of Ford Island, shared a hug with her daughter, Kayleigh Stacy, 18, at Neal Blaisdell Park on Saturday. The pair, separated for most of Stacy's life, won a look-alike contest last weekend.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

When Justine Frederick and her daughter, Kayleigh Stacy, took the stage at the mother-daughter look-alike contest, their resemblance impressed the judges, but their story made folks cry.

Frederick, 34, was a teenager when she gave baby Kayleigh up for adoption. When Kayleigh turned 18 this year, she started asking questions about her birth mom. Family friends helped her find the Navy wife, who was living in Sicily at the time. The two started corresponding via e-mail.

"The very first conversation we had was 88 pages long," Frederick said. "She printed it out."

They sent pictures back and forth. Frederick said she stared at her daughter's photos for hours.

"It was amazing to look at this other person with my eyes. Even family members, when we were first reunited, would stand and stare. My niece said, 'I don't know which one is my Aunt Justine!' "

Kayleigh came to live with her mom, stepdad and two half-siblings when the family moved to Hawai'i in March. She's finishing her senior year of high school at Radford. She told Frederick she wanted to spend the "last two official months of her childhood" with her birth mom.

As winners of the look-alike contest at the Annual Spring New Products show last weekend at Blaisdell Center, mother and daughter received a $500 spa package and further validation that, yes, the resemblance is remarkable.

"I have to pinch myself every once in a while," Frederick said. "It's the most amazing thing ever. It's the feeling of completeness. That's the only way I can describe it, because all my little babies are in a row and this is the first Mother's Day that they're here with me."