Toni Rosenberg, right, of Boca Raton, meets her sister Florence Serino for the first time at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday May 16, 2016. Serino had just traveled from her home in Irvine, California. (Photo: Meghan McCarthy / Palm Beach Post)

Adopted woman, 72, connects with long-lost sister

The two met for the first time May 16 at a crowded airport gate in Fort Lauderdale. Rosenberg, a Boca Raton resident who was given away as a newborn in a secretive “black market” adoption, tracked down Serino just last year.

“We both have big mouths,” Serino, who lives in Irvine, California, said with a laugh. The two have spent the past week shopping, eating and sharing memories, stories and photos of two families that, despite living on opposite sides of the country, are inextricably connected.

Rosenberg even learned that she had biological cousins living just miles from her in Boca Raton, she said. Serino introduced them.

“It’s crazy to think I had family right there,” said Rosenberg, the only child of her adoptive parents.

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The sisters have spent hours looking at old family photos, including ones of the pair’s biological mother Ilene Gallagher, which Serino brought with her from California.

“If you saw my mother walking down the street, you’d say immediately, ‘She must be related to Toni,’ ” Rosenberg said of her resemblance to Gallagher.

The union has brought immeasurable joy to Rosenberg and her family and friends, Rosenberg said.

But a sadness still lingers. Serino plans to fly back to California on Tuesday.

“All this time has gone by and we could’ve shared children and grandchildren,” Rosenberg said. “We could’ve had more years ahead of us.”

The sisters aren’t sure if they’ll meet again in person. A 2,200-mile flight is a financial and health strain on most, let alone on two elderly retirees.

“It’s kind of hard to think far ahead,” Rosenberg said, adding that they’re strategically packing half-a-century’s worth of conversations into a two-week visit. “How much time does God give us?”
Read more about the sister's journeys to meet one another here.

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