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"I am a Dodge" A Candid Interview With Frances Mealbach

Updated on April 3, 2017
Source

"They sought to create a tightly entangled web that even to this day continues to hold strong with the lies that were used to weave it."

Let me first start by explaining how this article came about. My name is Sharon Stajda, my mother is Frances Mealbach. My mother came to me one day, and requested I write down her story. Why did my mother want her story told, and why did she feel her story would actually be an important story to tell? Mom's story is an adoption story, a story of deception. It's a story of a powerful family that sought through many decades to hide the circumstances of mom's birth, and biological parent's identity.

You will read of how shortly after mom's birth secret arrangements were made to place her in a tuberculosis sanitorium in the town of Niles Michigan, and then six months later of her returned to the Detroit area, and placed in the care of the "Manzer's". The Manzer's were the parents that raised mom, and the parent's she believed were her biological parents. The story thickens when her father dies, and his Last Will And Testament refers to her as "my adopted daughter". Mr. Manzer bequest her nothing but a box full of photo's. Photo's that meant little to her at the time she received them. However, would become an intricate part of her research. Mom felt betrayed, as well as curious, she wanted to know the circumstances that lead to her adoption, and the identity of her biological parents ? Her research would span twenty years, and ultimately an eight year court battle with a wealth powerful family. In the end mom wins, but her victory is hollow, and leaves her disappointed. Yet she truly felt her most important questions had been answered. In her mind and heart she knew she had confirmed the identity of her biological father, his name was John Francis Dodge ...

Let me take the opportunity to state, I was pleased that my mother had faith that I could write such an intricate lengthy depiction of her story. However, I am not a professional writer, and fully realized may not posses the proper skills to write such a story. I pondered her request, and decided I would just do my best. After all I was with her every step of the way, and knew the facts well. I also had all of files and documents we obtained from her court case. As I stated I am not a writer. However, I am a good daughter, and wanted to comply with my mother's wishes. I have tried to quote Mom as much as possible, in hopes of letting readers get to know mom on a more personal level.

Where to start ? I hope to share mom's intriguing story along with many personal family photo's, and pertinent documents she obtained after winning her eight year court case. You will view her birth certificate, and see how badly it was tampered with. You can read step by step how mom came to her ultimate belief that John Francis Dodge is her biological father.

The words adopted daughter leaped off the page and brought my mom to tears ...

Source

My Dad Left So Many Clues

"The first inkling I had that my mother and father were not my biological parents, was the day my father's Last Will And Testament was read. When the attorney vocalized the words "adopted daughter" It felt as if my heart was glass, and had broken into a million pieces. Why had my parents kept this life altering secret from me? I felt this was perhaps the cruelest of all lies', that had ever been told to me. One can't imagine the sadness I felt.

After my father's funeral, a close cousin of my father, "Mrs.June Eschtruth," requested I accompany her to her place of business? There in her office safe she had a package my father had given her for safekeeping long before his death. He requested that the package be given to me only upon his death.

After opening the package, I found several documents, and photo's. Photographs, I had never seen before, most were of me as an infant. While looking at the photos I noticed one in particular, a picture of me with another baby, dressed in the identical clothes posed in a very fancy chair with a strand of pearls at both our necks. These were the only pictures I had ever seen of myself as a small baby. I always thought this odd, the Manzer's were the kind of parents that took yearly studio portraits of me throughout my childhood. Furthermore, included with the photos was a document, a birth registration from the year 1941. I was born in 1914, how could my birth be recorded some 27 years later? (I would later come to find out that my adoption had not been recorded until 1941, and that all records pertaining to my adoption were left unsigned by any legal authority.)

I already had children of my own! In addition, I was shocked to see my first name had been listed as "Frances", I was always referred to as Lucille? The name I had known, and gone by my entire life? The surname listed on the birth registration was that of Manzer. Why was the name Frances on my birth registration? I had never had a proper birth certificate, so this left me to wonder? It also made me realize, something was very wrong?

I felt betrayed, sad, and could not imagine why my father, the father I adored, waited until his death to make it known that I had been adopted, and that my real name was Frances? Furthermore, for what unknown reason could dad have had to wanted me to know these facts after his death? When he would not be physically available to help me understand why he had not been truthful about my birth? My father was an honest and God fearing man, it would not be in his character to lie.

There was never any doubt in my mind that my father loved me. He had been a good father, and always made me feel very special and loved. However, why was there such mystery surrounding my birth, and adoption? " What did my father hope to accomplish by leaving me these photo's?


The Photo's Were Old And Worn

"My Father wanted me to have this photo, and went to great lengths to make sure I received it. It was kept under lock and key until his death." This photo initiated strong feelings, and haunted me. It was the first piece of a puzzle. A puzzle that I needed to complete. I looked at each and every photo dad left me over and over again. Noting every detail. My mom wore a fur coat, my buggy having a beautiful stain glass insets on each side. I had never seen such an elaborate buggy. A photo with dad and mom in a grand Dodge automobile. " These many photo seem flood me with memories of my early childhood.

The Twins

Source

Childhood Memories ..." I Remembered A Very Large Home On Boston Boulevard "

My Most Vivid Childhood Memory

"After discovering that my parents, were not my biological parents. I started to ruminate on childhood memories, names and faces, and events from my childhood that meant little to me until now. However, these old memories now seemed to have significant meaning. They now became very important clues. Clues that would ultimately answer many questions about my birth, and who my birth parents were.

One of my most vivid childhood memories was that of being taken to a grand Boston Boulevard home. I could vividly remember being picked up at our Detroit home by a red-haired woman that was in a large automobile. I remember walking up the winding walkway that lead us to the front porch, and after entering the home being taken up a large grand staircase to visit a woman in a beautiful bedroom. Inside this elegant bedroom was a woman lying in sleigh bed, it was clear this woman was in ill health. I noticed the beautiful rose bud wallpaper, and most of all the beautiful drapes that hung at the large windows. After a short visit with this lady, I was then taken back down the stairs to a room on the first level at the back of the home. This room was bright, with lots of windows, and had a pretty tiled floor. I was given cookies and milk, and soon after I had finished my treat, the red-haired woman came to fetch me, and drove me home.

When I returned home , I could talk nothing but those fancy pink drapes. The drapes left such a lasting impression on me. I told my father and mother about the beautiful rose colored drapes over and over again. A few days later, my father created those very draped out of rose colored crepe paper for my bedroom windows. Making my bedroom feel as grand as the woman that lived on the Boulevard."

(The memory of this home was one of mom's first clues that the Dodge family was somehow evolved in her past. She was able to point out ,and identify that lovely home she was taken to as a young child. Even though the address had changed, and it's now connected to a Catholic church, she was positive that this was the home she had been taken to. The home was built by John Dodge just after his marriage to Matilda. The home still has the beautiful tile floor as mom remembered it. When building Meadow Brook Hall Mrs. Matilda Dodge duplicated the room she shared with John Dodge at the Boston Boulevard home with its sleigh bed, rose bud wallpaper, and wonderful rose drapes. This room is not shown to the public due to a fire department law. However, through an appointment with the hall's curator, Mom was able to view the room sometime after her court case had been settled. It was astounding to walk into that room. Mom had perfect recall of the decor, right down to the rose bud wallpaper.)

Another very important memory of moms was that of a couple that frequently visited the Manzer home throughout her life with the Manzer's. The couples names were Frank and Viola Upton. "Frank Upton" was my dad's best friend, and belonged to our church. They were lovely people. I was shocked to find out that Mr. Upton was John Dodge's personal secretary, and a close friend of John Dodge until he died. My parents always regarded the Upton's as best of friends."

The Upton's became just another clue to moms mysterious past. In the very early part of our research mom spoke of the Viola Upton. We were able to visit and speak with her before her death. The conversation led us to the conclusion that Frank Upton may have had a large part in placing mom in the Manzer home. Mom felt "the Upton's would have known what wonderful parents the Manzer's would be. Could have John Dodge's personal secretary Frank Upton had arranged for mom to be placed in the Manzer's home? He certainly knew they would be good parents, knowing they were good Christians, and childless.

Mom asked Viola if she had any information in regard to John Dodge perhaps being her biological father. Viola responded by saying - " Lucille you had good parents, and I can not elaborate on your biological father. I made a promise to my husband, and would never consider breaking that promise."

Mom believe these mysterious childhood memories are what created a strong desire to research the circumstances of her birth. "I wanted to know the truth, just who are my biological parents and why did they give me away?"


A Sneak Peek At Adoption Records

"My first task was to try to obtain some information on my birth parents? I also wanted to make every effort to obtain a legal birth certificate? My sister-in-law "Miss Clara Mealbach" was acquainted with a clerk at the "Detroit City County Building", that worked in the adoption records department, were kept on file. "Clara" thought her friend could help us view my birth information''.

Clara's friend made it possible for me to view one page of my adoption documents. I was told to "be quick with my appraisal of the document". In a hurried fashion I looked at the document, I noticed the name "Emma Jane Nelson" listed as the birth mother, and that she had been born in Jackson Michigan. I noticed there was no name listed as birth father. I remember feeling elated to have found the name of my birth mother, Emma Jane Nelson. I now felt I had something to run with.

With such a pertinent piece of information, I felt it was time to look at some City of Detroit Directories to see if I could locate where Emma Nelson had lived in the year I was born. My daughter's made the trip downtown to the Library, they found the name Emma Nelson in a 1914 Detroit City Directory. There was only one Emma Nelson in the City Directory listed, she lived and worked as a domestic in the home of "John Dodge", the address on Boston Boulevard, Detroit. This new information supplied a very large piece to our family puzzle. After all, we had now connected my birth mother to the home of John Dodge. It was the same Boston Boulevard home I had been taken to as a child". The home of John and Matilda Dodge."

(The memory of that home was a very vivid memory of moms, due to those rose crepe paper drapes that her dad had made for her bedroom windows. Nevertheless, another clue to the mystery, another clue that led us to that winding pathway of the Boston Boulevard home of John Dodge. The clues were starting to form a cohesive puzzle with pieces that included mysterious photos of mom as an infant, vivid memories of the home of John Dodge, Frank Upton personal secretary of John Dodge that had close ties with the Manzer's, and now Emma Nelson a maid that worked in the the Dodge's home.

One of the first and biggest clues that mom came across was the name Emma Nelson. When mom won the right to see her birth records, Emma Jane Nelson was listed on the birth certificate as her biological mother. See birth certificate below.

Time To Send Away For A Birth Certificate - Twins !

"My eldest daughter decided to send a request to the State Of Michigan Birth Records Department for my Birth Certificate. Giving what little information I had. My new name of Frances was used when filling out the request form, along with my maiden name " Manzer" being used as my last name on thee application. It was not mentioned that I was adopted.

A letter from the Michigan Birth Records arrived in about three weeks time. When I opened the letter I was shocked to find a Birth Certificate with the name''Frances Dodge''. The certificate indicated that Frances Dodge was born a twin? It was a birth certificate used for multiple births, the box which stated twin was clearly checked, and also checked was a box that stated one of two live births. I was flabbergasted , could this be true? Am I a twin, and are my biological parents John and Matilda Dodge?

I proceeded to sent the certificate back, fearing I had someone else birth record, and may have broken the law? To my surprise, the Birth Certificate was returned to me.This time with a letter stating in short, there had been no mistake. That it was ''not my sister's Birth Certificate", but my birth certificate?" I kept it, and have it to this day" in my files."

It Was Time To Hire An Attorney

Mom was determined to hire an Attorney ... "The Lawsuit Begins"

" After receiving this mysterious twin birth certificate, I knew it was time to find an Attorney. I wanted to get to the truth of my birth, and its surrounding mystery? With the full support of my family, I decided to approach the courts for answers, and file a lawsuit asking the court for permission to obtain any records that pertained to my birth, and adoption.

I never dreamed that anyone would protest my lawsuit .. Why would anyone protest my request to view my birth records, actually I didn't think anyone would care? I mean I couldn't imagine why anyone would object to me knowing who my biological parents were? However, there was an attorney at the hearing protesting that I be given the right to view my birth records. Shortly after I was contacted by attorney Mr. Frederick Buesser. Mr Buesser was the Guardian At Litem hired to handle John Dodge's Last Will And Testament. He requested an appointment, and I obliged. I was lead to believe I might be an "Unascertained Heir" of John Dodge. I then obtained attorney "James Cunningham" to represent my case. At each court hearing multiple attorney's representing the living Dodge grandchildren would be present. Each and everyone vehemently protest giving me the right to see my birth record. Again, the picture became very clear to me, the connection to the Dodge family once again was very evident.

The Dodge grandchildren were very opposed to me being given the right to view birth records. All fighting hard, to have the my case thrown out of court."

Mrs. Frances Mealbach with Phil Donahue

Mrs. Frances Mealbach with Phil Donahue
Mrs. Frances Mealbach with Phil Donahue

Many Came Forward To Help

"My story quickly came to the media's attention. This resulted in many people coming forward to help. It surprised me how many people contacted not only my attorney but my children, and I. Most willing to give legal depositions on what they knew about my birth. Many stating that they were under the impression that my birth was somewhat common knowledge back in the day. It was amazing to me that so many people knew so much, all this new information added fuel to the fire. I knew I had to uncover the truth, once and for all. I felt I had the right to know who my biological parents were. I was not looking for money, I was looking for the truth. Actually, after all of my research into this family, I truly felt I was the lucky one that got away ..."

There were so many people that contacted not only moms attorney, but directly contacted mom via the telephone. Many provide lengthy depositions under oath to what knowledge they had on the subject of her birth. One such person, Mrs. Mable Burgett. "Mabel" told of a point in her life when she was pregnant with her first child, and was taking a stroll through the streets of Hamtramck Michigan with her mother-in-law "Ida Burgett" . While passing a new stand Mable noted a headline on a newspaper that upset her. The headline read "Woman Gave Birth To Siamese Twins." Ida went on to stilled her daughter-in-laws fears by telling her that many years ago John Dodge and his wife Matilda gave birth to Siamese twins, and after the twins were separated the sickly twin was sent away. Naturally Mabel wanted to know where her mother-in-law heard the account of this odd twin birth. Ida confided that "Silas Burgett " her husband told her days after the birth occurred. Silas Burgett worked with John at his factory in Detroit, and was a hunting and fishing buddy of John and Horace Dodge.

Mabel in Florida on vacation saw mom's story in a newspaper. She immediately returned home, and contacted moms attorney. She was gracious enough to give a deposition. Mabel confided to mom that what her mother-in-law shared with her on that day so many years ago had haunted her. She so wondered what had happened to the twin that was hidden due to being sickly.

Another interesting account was given by Mrs. Mary Henneman," Mary" is Mr. Manzer's cousins June Eschtruth's daughter. June was Manzers cousin, the very cousin that gave mom the packet of photo's after Manzer's death. Mary gave an interesting deposition, she stated that her mother told her in her young adulthood that Lucille (mom) was adopted, and that her biological father's name was on an automobile. Mary claimed to be surprised so many years later to hear that mom had never been told of these facts. She added, "I thought her dad was most likely "Henry Ford".

There were so many wonderful people that came forward and provided mom and her attorney with accounts of what they felt would help mom show cause to see her birth records. Jean Pitrones book "Tangled Web" goes into great detailed accounts of interviews with people that sought to share their information and knowledge in regards to moms background and birth. From employees that worked with John Dodge at his plant, neighbors of the Manzer's, and farmers from the Rochester Michigan area where John Dodge had his farm. All sharing compelling accounts of the "Dodges" having twin daughters.

" I guess I was somewhat of a stumbling block to the "Dodge Grandchildren?"

"It was unfortunate that I was considered a stumbling block to the Dodge Grandchildren. They were due to receive their inheritance from the John Dodge trust fund. The matter of dispersing the grandchildren's funds came before the court, and to my surprise was settled with good speed. The trust fund was distributed to Dodge's grandchildren, and the Last Will And Testament had been settled, with attorney Buesser being discharged as Guardian At Litem. The final bequests from the John Dodge Trust had come to fruition. I felt the grandchildren would no longer have an interest in my plea to view my birth records". This was wishful thinking on my part ...

One might surmise that John Dodge's Last Will And Testament was carried out as he had wished. John Dodge's Last Will And Testament provided a trust, which stipulated that his biological children would enjoy yearly dividends, and per his wishes, after his last biological child died the trust fund would be divided among his grandchildren, completing his wishes.

My court case dragged on for eight long years,hearing after hearing. The Dodge grandchildren continued their many objections. Even going as far as to request that I have a DNA test done at the University Of Michigan Hospital, without a court order". My attorney objected that I comply with the request. At this time the courts did not accept DNA as evidence". Mr. Cunningham felt it would not be helpful to comply.

The Request for DNA - I complied to their request

The DNA Test

One of the attorney's representing one of the Dodge grandchildren, requested that I submit to DNA testing.

I suppose they felt this could once and for all ascertain if I were actually of the Dodge bloodline, and settle my paternity once and for all? I agreed to the testing against my attorneys advice, and complied with the request. I hoped perhaps that the Dodge grandchildren would perceive this gesture, as a gesture of good faith on my part. I also hoped, as I am sure they hoped the test would put an end to my lawsuit.

I was accompanied by my daughter Sharon, and Jean Pitrone to the University Of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor Michigan. Samples of my hair were taken along with a blood sample. The results were never brought up in court, and was not given the results upon request. I to this day have never been able to obtain the results.

The University Of Michigan hospital claiming the results were no longer on file that they had perhaps been misplaced? The hospital admits that a file folder was found. However, it was found to be empty. I still have the registration card I was given, and the document I signed giving permission to do collect blood and hair. I feel the results were never used in court or given to me due to the fact the test results were in my favor. Possible the results were conclusive evidence that I was the daughter of John Dodge. I could not possibly afford to request a DNA test be done on my behalf. Plus, I am not sure anyone in the Dodge family would cooperated with a donor sample from their side of the gene pool?"


The Court Proceedings Drag on For Eight Years

Mom at times was very weary over the long court battle. However, she didn't give up.

"The Court Proceedings Drag On And On All The Way To The Court Of Appeals. "My battle continued in for eight long years, and went on to set a precedence, and changed the laws on obtaining adoption records in the State of Michigan.

I could not list the many twist's and turns of the actual court hearings. I always felt added frustration after each hearing was over. It was hard to sit through these hearings, and be belittled, and degraded by the statements made by the opposing attorney's. "What rock has she climbed out from under." Stands out as one insult that was very cutting. My family, and I stood steadfast."

It's Over I Won !

"I Won ! - I would now have the opportunity to see my birth certificate, and adoption records."

The Birth Certificate - It Was In Bad Shape

February 20, 1990 the Michigan Court Of Appeals reversed the probate ruling that was preventing mom from seeing her adoption records, and her birth certificate. She finally had the right to see all records that pertained to her birth, and adoption. She had won!

"I Won! After eight years, and all of the work, and aggravation, I won!"

"I was finally going to be allowed to see all of my Adoption records, and my birth certificate. I will never forget the morning that I was getting myself ready to go up to the State Capitol in Lansing Michigan, I was going to see my birth certificate. The truth of my lineage, the answers to the whys of it? Why I was discarded, why was I not worthy of keeping, why was I kept from my only sister, a twin no less? Why had my beloved father forsaken me?

I was elated, overjoyed at the prospects of what the morning would bring! I arrived at the office on time. I was escorted into a room by two armed guards. I was also allowed to bring a specialist in handwriting, and ink analyst in with me to look at the document.

The birth certificate was under glass, and was in very bad condition. It had visible eraser marks all over it. The date of my birth erased, and another day, and year entered in its place. It was a mess. You could actually see other letters below what had been written over. (please look at the document, even a photo of the document shows the underwriting). The name of the mother listed the name as "Emma Jane Nelson", but you could see with the naked eye other letters under the name. It listed the name of a Doctor, that was at the birth, this name also had been visibly altered. My given name was filled in as "Remilda May Bornalive".

My birth name was also tampered with, I was devastated. I did find it a very interesting coincidence that the name Remilda was so closely related to the name Matilda, which was not only John Dodge's wife's name, but also their daughter France's middle name? I was able to obtain a copy of the document, which clearly shows all of its many discrepancies. The document was so sloppily altered that it would be impossible not to pick up all the alterations with the naked eye.

The expert report, stated "the ink was that of a ball point pen, and that it had been erased by a normal #2 pencil eraser in several areas. The erased areas could be seen with the naked eye. Other letters were visible under the recorded information, much of which one could see with the naked eye. The document had been most certainly tampered with." (Please see above document)

The Findings - My Adoption Certificate Was Fruitful. "My Name Is Frances"

My Adoption Record - "If I had been a foundling, an unwanted child of a house servant, why was there so much deception surrounding my birth, and adoption?"

"My adoption records proved to be more fruitful. Although it appeared that my adoption records had never actually been signed by any one of judicial authority, they did provide me with clues as to where I spent my first months of life.

The adoption records also confirmed that the same mother's name, "Emma Jane Nelson" was listed as my biological mother. The records also gave some further details on "Emma's" background, religion, and her physical appearance. They indicated that Emma was of dark complexion, dark hair, and short in stature, and of German descent. This seemed so opposite of my own appearance. I have been very blonde hair my entire life with a very light ivory skin.

It was my adoption records that held interesting information. It was stated that after my birth I was taken to Niles Michigan, and spent the six four months of my life in a Tuberculosis Sanatorium. It seemed odd that there was no medical information listed on my condition, and why I needed to be hospitalized in the first place? Although a neighbor of the Manzer's gave a deposition to the fact my illness was lung related, due to her witnessing my mother applying mustard packs to my chest as a daily treatment.( John Dodge suffered from Tuberculosis). Niles Michigan was the home of John Dodge as a boy, and he had many relatives living there the year of my birth to include his mother. It's curious that if I were a foundling I would be sent so far away from the Detroit area. Foundlings with health problems in 1914 were known to be sent to Eloise Sanatorium just outside Detroit. Today it takes about three and a half hours to drive to Niles. I was able to visit a Niles historian, and was shown photos of the little hospital I spent my first month in. It was an old victorian home.

The birth records also showed the name of the hospital that I was said to be born. The hospital listed on my adoption records listed "Woman's Hospital Of Detroit". Unfortunately, when following up on this information, the hospital provided documentation that there was never a child born to an "Emma Nelson" at Woman's Hospital Of Detroit. The hospital also claimed the physician listed as the physician of birth record, was not on staff at Woman's Hospital Of Detroit, and that they had no knowledge of this particular physician.

The most interesting document included in my adoption file was the "Certificate of Adoption". My given name was not that of "Remilda, the name on the birth certificate I was given", the name listed is "Frances Lucille Manzer". My adoption was not finalized until August 28,1941. I was 27 years old with children of my own! Why was my adoption held in "limbo" for so many years?

From the day I obtain my Record of Adoption document I have used my legal name Frances. My Certificate of Adoption In actuality the only document I received that had been signed by the court. This lead me to believe my name is Frances. I believe the certificate the state sent me all the many years ago showing me to be a twin one of two live births by the name of Frances is my rightful birth certificate. What ever went on behind the closed doors will remain a mystery.


My Biological Mother

"I truly believe I was born a twin, and that my biological father is automobile magnate, John Francis Dodge. I am not sure who my mother though?

I am sure you are wondering why I am unsure who my biological mother is? Sadly, my research has left me with three scenarios of who my mother may be.

The first scenario being a woman that was employed as a maid in the Boston Boulevard home of Matilda and John Dodge, her name, "Emma Jane Nelson". Emma's name was actually listed as the biological mother, on my true birth certificate, I mean to say, the birth certificate I obtained when my court case was concluded.

My second theory is Matilda Dodge, John's second wife. It's possible that Miilda gave birth to the twins, and for reasons unknown gave me up to adoption? This is only conjecture on my part. However, at the time of my birth, it was known, and documented that I was in ill health with a respiratory related health problem. Records show that I had been hospitalized for the first six months of my life in a Tuberculosis sanatorium. Shortly after my birth, for reasons unknown to me, I was sent to a hospital. Not a hospital in Detroit, the city I was born in, but a hospital in Niles Michigan. A hospital which was known for treating Tuberculosis. Niles is a small town on the west side of the state of Michigan, about one hundred and fifty miles from Detroit. I always thought it odd that I would have been sent to Nile's, the small town so far from the city of my birth? Through my research I found out that John Dodge was born, and grew up in Niles Michigan, and at the time of my birth, he actually still had several relatives living there. I guess my health problems could have been the reason the Dodge's decided to give me up for adoption? Perhaps to prevent the healthy twin from contracting this life threatening illness ? I guess it may have been suspected that I had Tuberculosis? It bears mentioning that John Dodge had a long history of Tuberculosis. Perhaps, Matilda may have well felt a need to protect her healthy baby from contracting such a disease?

The third, and last scenario would be Matilda's younger sister "Amelia Rausch". It was rumored that John Dodge had a "love affair" with his sister-in-law. It was well known that they shared adjoining bedrooms at his Meadow Brook farm. Another intriguing fact, Amelia who was known to be a vibrant city girl, moved out to John's farm "Meadow Brook" in 1914, the year I was born. Perhaps she was sent away to hide a pregnancy?

Do you have any information on Emma Jane Nelson - If so the Mealbach family request your help

Emma Jane Nelson

Emma Jane Nelson-Kimball of the Jackson-Detroit Area. The following is what's known about Emma's history.

1. Emma's parents were Alice and Andrew Nelson, they were both born in England, and after marrying moved to Canada in the late 1800's

2. In the 1910 Michigan census show Emma Jane Nelson living with her parents, Andrew and Alice in Jackson, MI. Emma would have been 14 at the time. The Nelson family lived at 207 Maple Avenue. Emma siblings are listed just below this article.

3. Emma Jane moved to Detroit, and worked in a home as a domestic servant in 1914.

4. In 1914 Emma's name was used on my mother's birth record, and adoption records along with her parents names, Andrew and Alice Nelson of Jackson Michigan.

5. In 1916 Emma married an Ethan Kimball of New York. At this point in time she becomes Emma Jane Kimball. I believe they remained in the Detroit area for the next few years.

UPDATE - Emma and Ethan Kimball divorced In March of 1921

6. Andrew Nelson, Emma's father, dies in 1916.

7. Emma's sister, Hazel, in 1919 Marries Carl Hammer of Jackson. She dies during childbirth a few years later.

8. In 1920 census Emma again shows up in the home of her parents in Jackson, MI. While Emma's husband Ethan shows up in Detroit, MI. Ethan's profession is listed at a Machinist. Emma is listed as working at a Factory in Jackson.

9. Family members remain traceable up into the 60's in Jackson, MI but none can be found today.

1920 is the last time I can find of Emma Jane Nelson.


Have some information on "Emma Jane Nelson Kimball Please email me at info@oldandsold.com

Thank you for considering my request

Emma Jane Nelson in household of Andrew M Nelson, "United States Census, 1910"

Emma J Nelson in household of Andrew M Nelson, "United States Census, 1910"

name: Emma J Nelson

birthplace: Canada

relationship to head of household: Daughter

residence: Bowne, Kent, Michigan

marital status listed as in 1910: Single

race : White

gender: Female

immigration year: 1897

father's birthplace: Canada

mother's birthplace: England

family number: 182

page number: 8

Household Gender Age Birthplace

self Andrew M Nelson M 60y Canada

wife Alice Nelson F 45y England

son Abel Nelson M 18y Michigan

dau Emma J Nelson F 13y Canada

dau Margaret E Nelson F 12y Michigan

dau Asa M Nelson F 10y Michigan

dau Rhoda F Nelson F 8y Michigan

son Gilbert D Nelson M 6y Michigan

son Leo J Nelson M 3y Michigan

Citing this Record

Emma Nelson Weds Ethan N. Kimball In Michigan . Date 30 May 1916

Ethan N Kimball, "Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925"

groom's name: Ethan N Kimball

groom's race:

groom's age: 22 years

groom's birth date: 1894

groom's birthplace: New York

bride's name: Emma Nelson

bride's race:

bride's age: 19 years

bride's birth date: 1897

bride's birthplace: Canada

marriage type:

marriage date: 30 May 1916

marriage place: Detroit, Wayne, Michigan

groom's father: George N

groom's mother: Hattie

bride's father: Andrew

bride's mother: Alice

groom's marital status:

groom's previous wife:

bride's marital status:

bride's previous husband:

film number: 2342718

frame number:

digital folder number: 4209963

image number: 185

reference number: v 6 p 329 rn 130266

Citing this Record

Thinking Back To My Childhood

"I loved my parents actually I had a blessed childhood, and a very deep love for my father and mother. My father was an exceptional man, a good man. My dad spent a lot of time with me, teaching me many wonderful things along the way. He made sure I had a good education, and knew all the wonders of nature. He always encouraged my artistic abilities. Some of my best childhood memories were of the wonderful times I spent with my dad, making paper dolls, fishing, vacation at the lake, and swinging at the back of the house on that old swing he built. He was a loving kind man. Together, he and my mother left me with strong morals, and good religious beliefs, and good skills to make my way through this life.

I have wonderful memories of my father and my mother. Although my mother was always somewhat distance, and seemed very concerned with teaching me to be a perfect lady. She was a very good woman, a woman that held a great belief in God. I know she loved me, even though she was not emotionally equipped to show it. Perhaps she was burdened with guilt? She may not have wanting to keep the secret of my adoption from me? This may be the reason she kept her love bottled up inside her much of the time.

As I stated my life was, and remains a mystery in many ways. I know in my heart, I am John Dodge's daughter. So many questions still haunt me, and remain unanswered? I still pray that one day my questions will be answered. The most important question, why did Dodges choose to abandon me, what were their motives?"

"I would Love To Share Some Of My Photos"

I loved my dad dearly...

"This is one of my most cherished photos. It's my Dad and I swinging on a swing he built. This swing sat at the back of my childhood home."

"Dad And Mother In Their First Car ?" - This is one of the photos, from the photo collection I received when Dad died.

The Manzer's First Car

"I would guess this was their first automobile? I get a kick out of Mother sitting in the driver's seat.. I never would have thought her to have a mischievous side to her personality."

"Photo Of Dad And Mother On The Belle Isle Bridge"

"This is a photo that was taken at the Belle Isle bridge in Detroit. If my memory serves me, the gentleman with my parents is Mr. Upton."

"Me playing with a ball..." - "This is one of the photos, from the photo collection I received when Dad died."

"This photo is curious to me? Note the basement windows in the background of this photo. They are rather high, and the home itself, looks to be large. Could this be the Boston Boulevard home of the Dodge's?

I know I was taken at least once to the Boston Boulevard home of the Dodge's. Could have I visited on more than one occasion?"

I always wondered Who's hat adorned my head as I played?"

"Dad With Unknown Man and Boy" - "This is one of the photos, from the photo collection I received when Dad died."

"This photo is a real mystery. The man at the right is my dad (Robert Manzer), the boy I can't identify. It's conjecture on my part, but I think this gentleman at the left could be John Dodge.

"Another Photo Me and Gentleman I do Not Actually Remember. - "This is one of the photos, from the photo collection I received when Dad died."

"Me and My Best Friend ..."

Frances enjoying Christmas with Grandson Eric, and his wife Liz At Sharon's home. Mom so loved Christmas

Frances enjoying Christmas with Grandson Eric, and his wife Liz...
Frances enjoying Christmas with Grandson Eric, and his wife Liz...

In Closing...

"Thank you for taking time to share my story, and thank you to my daughter "Sharon" for writing it.

"I am so pleased to have the opportunity to have my story on the Internet. With this form of technology, perhaps my story will be preserved, and maybe it will encourage others that were adopted to search for their biological parents. Hopefully, their journey will lead them to a clear truth.

I hold no animosity or ill will toward the Dodge grandchildren. I hope someday they will come to realize that I truly just wanted to know who my birth parents were. Actually, I hope they will come to realize I had the right to know the identity of biological parents, and the circumstances that surrounded my birth.

All the "why's" haunt me. Adoption laws prevent the most human right, the right to know whom one's biological parents are, and perhaps why they decided to put their child up for adoption ."

My Mom Passed Away - January 1, 2009

It's with a sad heart that I report my mom passed away On January 1, 2009. She died peacefully in her sleep, with her family at bedside. Her daughter "Brenda" stated "Mom had a glowing smile on her face, and let out a happy sounding sigh. She appeared to look as she had as a young woman. She had such a peaceful passing."

In October 2008 mom confided in me she knew her time was near. She seemed to look forward to death, perhaps at the prospect of reuniting with her sons, and husband as well as her many other loved ones.

In life she had so many unanswered questions in regard to her birth. Hopefully in death all her questions have finally been answered?

A True Lady

May she rest in peace" Frances spent her last years living a peaceful life in Mt. Dora Florida in a lovely home next to her daughter Brenda.

"Mom held out hope that someday all her questions would be answered, she also was a realist, and truly felt in her heart that the secret of her birth would stay just that, a secret ...

It's a sad fact that my mother was denied her birth right. However, due to her courageous long fight in the Michigan courts', she set a precedent, she made it possible for other adoptee's to have their questions answered."

"Frances Mealbach's " Life Was Indeed A TANGLED WEB

Pick up the book "Tangled Web" It's a book you will not be able to put down.

Author and friend "Jean Maddern Pitrone" wrote a wonderful book about mother's life story. Mrs. Pitrone took good care to compare the different lifestyles and events of mother's life, to that of her "alleged twin sister Francis Dodge". Careful detail is given to present the factual evidence of moms court case, along with compelling interviews and photos. Tangled Web won Mrs. Pitrone the SAH Award Awards of Distinction in 1990.

Author Jean Pitrone is well-known for her compelling autobiography, "The Dodges The Auto Family Fortune And Misfortune". Facts gathered from this book were immensely helpful with moms quest to prove her court claim, and win the right to view her Adoption records, and Birth Certificate

"I truly cherish my friendship with "Jean", she has been a good friend to me, and we have had some wonderful times together. Jean's book includes details of my life, and my quest to see my birth records. It's my hope that the book will be a tool to get my story to the public. Perhaps there may be someone that reads Tangled Web that can help me answer my many unanswered questions."

Note. Mrs.Mealbach will not receive any form of monetary benefit from a sales of Tangled Web. She relinquished all rights to monetary gains derived from book sales of her own accord.

To find a copy of Tangled Web, please check out Amazon used books. I have provided a link below

Tangled Web - on Amazon

Would you like to read more on Mrs. Mealbach's story? Consider purchasing the book "Tangled Web".... Amazon has several used copies.

Unsolved Mysteries

The very first Unsolved Mysteries featured Frances Mealbach's story...


The unassuming documentary series, "Unsolved Mysteries" was one of the most popular reality programs of the late 1960s-1980s and the inspiration for dozens of network, and syndicated imitators. It all began with a single special on the night of January 20, 1987. Host Raymond Burr narrated four real-life mysteries. The show started out with the story of 72-year-old Francs Mealbach a Detroit woman, who claimed to be a possible Siamese twin and daughter of John Dodge auto barren. "Mealbach" believed she was separated at birth from a twin, and put up for adoption. Mealbach, and her two daughters actually portraying themselves in the feature made it all the more interesting. The filmmakers take you carefully back to a time gone by. The first Scene starting at a party where Mrs. Mealbachs daughter Brenda Eiler's, is handed a book by the party's host. In seconds Brenda discovers photo's that showed uncanny resemblances to not only her mother, but several of her siblings as well.

Further scenes go on to take one back in time, with a visits to the John Dodge home on the prestigious Boston Boulevard, where Mrs. Mealbach had memories of being taken as a small child. "Matilda Dodges" 100 room mansion Meadow Brook Hall, the home Matilda built after John's death, and where she raised Frances, Mrs. Mealbachs Twin. The closing scene takes you to the spooky Dodge Mausoleum, with Mrs. Mealbach pondering the whys of it all? Mrs. Mealbach's poignant story kicked off the successful long running series "Unsolved Mysteries," Which even today, reruns are still viewed, and enjoyed all over the world.'

Do you have any information that would help the Mealbach family get any closer to the truth about Mrs. Mealbach's lineage ? If so please drop me a line at ....

info@oldandsold.com

I hope you will take time to sign my Guestbook. I realize that my mother's story is an unusual story, and I know it might invoke many different opinions. I published this article to tell my mother's story, and express her true beliefs. I have very strong feelings on the subject, and do not intend to open any form of debate on my mom's beliefs. My mother has passed on, and hopefully she now knows the truth ...

Do Adopted Children Have The Right?

Should children that have been adopted have the right to all documents, and or information on their birth, and birth parents?

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    • Sharlee01 profile image
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      Sharon Stajda 3 weeks ago from Shelby Township Michigan

      Veronika, I appreciate your visit as well as your comment. It in no way offended me. I was touched by how much thought you put into my mother's situation. Thank you, Sharon

    • profile image

      Veronika 3 weeks ago

      I don’t mean any disrespect but I have a theory based on what happened to my mother when she was a child.

      My mother spent her early childhood in a big house with her four siblings, my grandmother and my grandfather- an accountant with apparently his own business. When my mom was 7 my grandmother passed away, my grandfather remarried and the stepmother was abusive. There was an infant in the house that wasn’t fed, left in the crib all day, and diaper was not changed. One day my mom told my grandfather what was happening and he began beating his wife so badly that my mother begged him to stop, eventually my mom and her siblings were sent to their aunt’s house where they stayed until college and some of her siblings remained in the house or moved back. There was no call to social services or to the police, my grandfather would visit at first but eventually only sent money for school and things they needed.

      My theory is:

      Matilda has twins and begins showing signs of abuse or neglect (not trying to diagnose or accuse and I don’t have a source but I read that chances for postpartum depression increase when mother has twins) Frances is sent away to a tuberculosis center, the family has a history of tuberculosis and that would be less scandalous than an accusation of something much worse (I believe the conjoined twin story was simply sensationalized media- still happens to this day). The baby is sent to the clinic with the hope that the family living nearby will take the baby in but that doesn’t work out and the child is placed with the Upton’s friends. The visits to the Boston Boulevard home might have been a way to try to reintroduce Francis back to the Dodge family but she had forgotten and bonded with the Manzer’s. In 1941 Frances is adopted.

      The theory would explain why Viola Upton promised her husband she would never tell about the biological father and why people told Frances that she lived a good life, also it seems that wealthy or respected families had a secret related to children (abuse, neglect, medical issue that would shame family, child did not comply with parent…) the children would be sent to other families. The situation seems originally temporary because several people at the factory and neighbors were told of the twins and had seen them and there were articles written about them – not the actions of a family choosing adoption back then.

      Or it is possible that Frances theory is more accurate. She was sick (I found out that mustard packs can be used for congestion – sorry no source again) and was placed in the Manzer home to prevent contamination, she was finally declared healthy enough but had already bonded with the Manzers and eventually adopted. If this second theory is true then the Dodge parents sacrificed their child for her to have a stable life.

      I am saddened by this story and how the grandchildren denied Francis knowing the truth, I hope I haven’t angered anyone and I plan on reading Tangled Web. This story impacted me and I hope that someday the mystery is solved.

    • Sharlee01 profile image
      Author

      Sharon Stajda 17 months ago from Shelby Township Michigan

      Re- Deliphine at dock

      Thank you for your kind comment on my Mother, she was a kind gentle soul that saw good in most everyone. I have the same sentiments in regard to hoping a "Dogde" family member may know the truth, and help me fill in the blanks. It is most possible that the truth died long ago with those that were involved. Please know I appreciate your comment, In many ways others support has been comforting.

    • profile image

      delphine at dock 17 months ago

      i have read the tangled web book several times and have a keen interest in the dodge family and the history of detroit. like those listed here i believe your mother was a dodge and have always hoped when the money was no longer an issue the truth would come out from a dodge family member. your mother as the book states was a kind and gentle soul . your mother's account of the interior of the boston blvd house is more than accurate it is exact! matilda was a very complex woman who had many tiny secrets which now have become public. and the way she treated amelia is proof of her odd habits. i still hope the story will be told , i believe that in the court records there might still be hidden information on this matter.

    • profile image

      Hi 23 months ago

      Incredible story and really fascinating. I just watched Unsolved and looked up the case to see the outcome. You are a good and faithful child seeking to publish her story on the internet for others to benefit and learn from. Your mother seemed very genuine in her disinterest in financial persuits relating to her lineage. Good luck in your quest.

    • profile image

      Home Care Edmonton 23 months ago

      Fascinating and convoluted story. Thanks for making it available here

    • profile image

      toni lewis 2 years ago

      I have been following your story for many years..I truly believe your mother was a Dodge. However it so sad your mother had no closure before she passed..she truly knew in her heart she was from the Dodge family. I feel one day justice will be served and the truth will surface. I think its wonderful how you stood by her and tried to bring everything to surface. The reason for my comment now is because I have shared your heartbreaking story with so many of my family ..and just yesterday told my sister about it . we we to the library and she checked out the book Tangeled Web..in which she never put down until finished....she to is touched by your mothers story and has been talking all day about it...please just know even though we are complete strangers we share your sadness and confusion as well..may your mother rest in peace .She was a very beautiful woman.

    • Sharlee01 profile image
      Author

      Sharon Stajda 3 years ago from Shelby Township Michigan

      Thank you for your condolences. We so wished we could do DNA testing, however it does not seem likely that any of the Dodge relatives would cooperate. We do have the appropriate samples from Mom to complete a DNA test, hopefully some day we will get a Dodge donor. I hope someday you find out who your Dad is. There is always hope.

    • profile image

      wendy-hutt1 3 years ago

      Sorry to hear your mom passed on, I had always hoped she could get the answers she was entitled to. But what happened to the theory that she had an almost body length scar on one side, which could have been indicative of being a separated siamese twin? And why oh why haven't you bothered to simply compel the dna results-for pity sake, they took the samples, and there was a report,and there were witnesses to the buccal and blood draws. I don't get it.

      If you can't compel the Dodge heirs, there is more than one way to skin a cat; a private investigator worth their salt could get you a sample which could give you the answers your mother wanted. I understand that when she started this journey there wasn't any good DNA testing available, but nowadays it is quick, (as in 24 hrs turnaround time), and cheap, as in less than ($100. ) and reliable-with an error rate that is minscule to the nth degree.

      I've done it myself, and although I thought I was wrong about my paternity suspicions I still thought it was so cheap and easy i couldn't live with myself if i let my opportunity to get a definitive answer go by. And Bam, i was absolutely right in my gut feelings. I know that feeling that something isn't quite right, it's a strange thing, that people laugh at, but it makes so much sense that I can't understand why I didn't go with my gut years ago. I only found out who my dad *wasn't* until after I was 50 yrs old.

      It seems everyone who would know the truth is either gone or not talking, so i understand the frustration. Looks like i won't know who my dad is either unless something extraordinary happens, but then strange things happen. Sometimes they happen more than once!

      I say keep trying. You may be trying to get information on Emma Nelson, for no valid reason at all, but you can actually find out IF the Dodge assertion is true since there are several Dodge descendants-go for it, there may be one or more who are amenable to finding truth. Some people actually do have respect for others, and do know right from wrong.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this story. I have read Tangled Web and believe your mother is a Dodge.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      To me it is so unfair that she was never told who her parents were... But I believe she is a Dodge!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I believe that without a doubt, Frances was a Dodge. Regardless of whether or not Frances wanted inheritance when she was alive, her family is entitled to it. Even more so, now that the Dodge family has tried so hard to deny her of her own history. I hope the family of Frances can continue this fight. The truth has to be known.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I googled your mum's story after watching a rerun of unsolved mysteries. I wanted to learn more. .. thank you for spending the time to write your mother's story... it was wonderful.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I am distantly related to Emma Jane and would be interested in finding out more about the whole situation...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I read the book Tangled Web and as I recall Brenda (Mrs. Mealbach's daughter) saw a book with photos of John Dodge (as mentioned in the above video) and according to the book due to Brenda believing she was a psychic she thought her grandmother was the daughter of John Dodge and subsequently/as a result the children of Mrs Mealbach encouraged Mrs Mealbach to attempt to make a claim to being the daughter of John Dodge. It is an interesting story indeed that Brenda's psychic ability led the family to pursue a relationship to the auto tycoon John Dodge.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I saw the Unsolved Mysteries show and had to look up this story. Wow! I believe Mrs. Mealbach was a Dodge. Many famous people do not like to "own" children born outside of known, legal marriages or affairs. All the Dodge grandchildren know about is their grandparents' marriage.

      There's a similar story in the NY Post about Lucy and Desi Arnaz's first daughter possibly being given up for adoption because Lucy didn't want to ruin her career. The daughter told of a "Mrs. Morton" coming to visit her when she was a child (Lucy's name after marrying Gary Morton). It is a great story told by the granddaughter but no one seems to want to "touch" that story. It should've been investigated further.

      Another man was on 20/20 saying he was JFK's son and looked more like the president than John, Jr. did! He said his mother told him about his parentage after his "father" died. However, she denies it. I think she told him but didn't realize the story would be leaked. The show said there was no record of his mother being in DC during that time either. However, most of know how presidents and officials get around. She didn't have to be signed in to be in DC or possibly the president could've been in TX. All I know is that man looks just like him. The Kennedy family has denied him of course.

      I'm surprised no criminal charges were filed over the alteration of the birth certificate! How bold & corrupt was that?

      How hurtful this must've been to Mrs. Mealback!

    • profile image

      Fashionnews 5 years ago

      i really inspired with so many topics herein but which i most like Mrs. Pitrone wrote a book on the lives of Dodge brothersAndrew Nelson and 2. is Emma's father, dies in 1916 .

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Fascinating and convoluted story. Thanks for making it available here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Has this issue been looked at as a possible criminal matter - hospitals had nowhere the security current day hospitals have preventing the removal of babies soon after their birth, Esspecially if you have a Doctor ? possibly involved - Maybe someone decided they would purchase a child in such an illegal matter - Maybe the Doges were told the second child had died even though certificate states born alive they could have told them the child and truthfully someone had removed the live child to be sold to awaiting wealthy set of parents and not necessarily picking on the woman's current parents this could have been a scheme of a so called unscrupulous adoption agency - i IMAGINE sEVERAL THOUSAND IF NOT MILLIONS MAY BE SPENT ON A HEALTHY WHITE NEWBORN

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I read Jean Pitrone's book and it is very interesting. I wonder why another DNA test was not ordered? I know that Ms. Mealbach has passed away. Legally, can her kids do anything to

      get a DNA test and prove they are related to the Dodge's?

    • Sharlee01 profile image
      Author

      Sharon Stajda 6 years ago from Shelby Township Michigan

      @Ann Hinds: I am pleased you enjoyed this lens. This lens was a work of love. Thank you for the Angel Blessing... Shar

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      Incredible story well worth the reading. Angel blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I stumbled upon this website a few weeks ago and found Mrs. Mealbach's story interesting and decided to check out the book from my local library. After reading the book, Tangled Web, I can hardly believe there hasn't been a movie made about this. Quite an astonishing story I must say.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Nice new page Shar and very interesting!! Happy Holidays to you and yours.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I knew and loved this "true lady". I have thought of her often over the years. I remember first hearing her story and believed it then. I am saddened by the news of her death, but I am sure she now has the answewrs she searced so long and hard for.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Interesting photos, especially the certificate recently added to the site. Sure is an interesting story that keeps one wondering if there will ever be any firm answers. Certainly there may still be living people who may recall certain events, perhaps some day one of them will come forward and shed some light. My wife and I check back on the site often in the case there are any updates.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is a fascinating story. If you take pictures of Mrs. Mealbach's children and grandchildren and lay them side-by-side with photos of Dodge family members, the resemblance is truly remarkable. You could actually conceal the identity of the people from both groups of photos, randomly mix them, and still be unable to tell who is who. Uncanny.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Very nice new website design. Keep up the good work. And as always, great story. I hope someday soon there is a resolution.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      i read the tangled web 3 times and i believe lucille to be a dodge if not a twin the baby of amelia or the dodge maid emma she bears the face and i agree from what i read about her a true lady

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Looking forward to the new page!! Will check back, it's in my favorites.

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