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'Bobby was born first, and he always rubs it in because he's older.' : Two Handicapped Brothers Are Reunited for '87

January 05, 1987|LYNN SIMROSS | Times Staff Writer

Richard De Cora has good reason to be celebrating the New Year. He found his twin brother, Bobby, again.

Ten and a half years ago, Richard was mistakenly informed that his brother, born blind and with cerebral palsy, had died at Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona where he had been raised after their natural parents abandoned the identical twins at birth.

De Cora believed he had no family left at all. His adoptive parents, Henry and Beatrice Redd, died in 1969 and 1971, respectively.

Unexpected Call

But in November, Richard De Cora got an unexpected phone call from a social worker in Pico Rivera.

"It was Nov. 18. I'll never forget that date," Richard said late last week. "I was doing volunteer work, teaching and counseling at a school for multiply handicapped blind adults in Sierra Madre--it's called CLIMB. It was Bobby's social worker, Jeri Detering, who called. She works for a regional center in that area, and the place where I was working happens to be in that district. She said Bobby had gotten out of Lanterman in September and was at Burnett's Home in Pico Rivera. There was a chair behind me and I fell right into it."

"It's a wonderful story," said Bonnie Adams Burnett, who with her husband David owns and runs Burnett's Home, an intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled handicapped. "When Bobby came here, as far as we knew he had no family. We started talking about wishing we could find out if he did, and Jeri looked in the phone book and there was Richard's name."

Richard De Cora, who is legally blind but has slight vision in his left eye, said he now realizes that it was his natural father who died in 1976, resulting in a mix-up. "The information I received was that Bobby had died," he said.

After getting the unexpected phone call telling him that Bobby was alive, he called a friend, Penny Wolfenbarger, in Pasadena who drove him to Pico Rivera.

"When they saw each other, they both cried," said Wolfenbarger, who invited the 32-year-old De Cora brothers to her home for a Christmas turkey dinner, and again last week for a New Year's celebration. "They have had so much tragedy, then suddenly such a wonderful thing as this happened, to find Bobby."

On Christmas Eve, Bobby De Cora, who is confined to a wheelchair, Wolfenbarger and another friend, Andy Thalor, attended Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena to hear Richard sing in the choir.

'A Special Holiday'

"Christmas was a really very special holiday this year because of Bobby and because of having a friend like Penny," Richard De Cora said. "There are a lot of people out there who are not thankful for what they have. I look at what Bobby has been through and what I've been through, yet I think I should be thankful for all I have. I have all my senses, my slight vision and I have Bobby back.

"This was a special Christmas for Bobby, too. He never had Christmas in somebody's home before. And he had so much fun. He got some nice clothes and a stereo. And we're in the process of getting him some new records.

"Bobby was with us New Year's, too. We went to the Rose Parade," De Cora said. "He stayed overnight at Penny's, and I camped out on the parade route so we'd have a place for him."

Neither of the De Cora twins can remember anything about their early childhood.

From studying hospital records, they know that they were born two months prematurely at General Hospital (now Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center) on June 5, 1954.

"Bobby was born first, and he always rubs it in because he's older," Richard said with a smile. He explained that both brothers believe that their parents abandoned them at birth because of their disabilities.

"I've tried, but I don't remember anything until I was about 5," Richard De Cora said. "I don't even know where I lived. All I remember is being in a dark room. Then, when I was about 5 1/2, a lady started coming to see me and I ended up going to her home. I didn't know about Bobby at all."

Unlike his brother who was institutionalized when he was small, Richard De Cora was adopted by the Redd family and grew up in South-Central Los Angeles. His mother was a nurse; his father owned a variety store near their home on 108th Street.

"They were black and they came from Louisiana," Richard De Cora said of the Redds. "They raised three other foster children who were severely mentally retarded. The feeling I got from them was that they really enjoyed having handicapped children and doing what they could to make a family for them."

Richard recalls sweeping the store for his father and arranging items on the shelves. "My dad wanted to expand the store eventually," he said, "but because of the Watts riots he didn't."

At home, the Redds maintained a large garden where they grew all the family's vegetables. "It was a huge garden and it was my responsibility," Richard said. "I remember we had two big peach trees and I used to climb up and pick the peaches before they fell to the ground."

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