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Mother’s Day Has Special Meaning for Reunited Mother and Son

May 8, 1985

NEPONSET, Ill. (AP) _ In the year since a gravely ill Jerry Blanford discovered his ″old friend″ was his mother, he’s been given a second chance at life - and new cause for celebrating Mother’s Day.

″Every day, I pray and thank God for the gift he gave me,″ says Patricia McDermott, 45, who gave her son up for adoption soon after his birth March 15, 1958. ″It was a gift of life.″

Before learning she was his biological mother, Blanford had known Mrs. McDermott for several years as a good customer at the grocery store he managed.

When they discovered their relationship, Blanford was on his deathbed, bloated by poisoned fluids from a diseased liver and in desperate need of a liver transplant.

″I thought I was gone; I was scared,″ Blanford says. ″But I was only 26 years old. I didn’t want to die.″

When doctors said they needed more medical history on Blanford’s family, his adoptive mother, Flavia Blanford, tracked down Mrs. McDermott - a customer at the grocery store in Coal Valley, a town of 3,500 people in northwestern Illinois near the Mississippi River.

″It’s kind of like incredible, isn’t it?″ Mrs. McDermott said at the time.

She was aware her son had been named Thomas G. Blanford, she said, but knew the ″nice young kid″ who managed the grocery only as Jerry.

Fund-raising efforts by Mrs. McDermott and the Blanfords last year raised about $50,000 for Blanford’s medical costs. He received the transplant in the spring.

″I feel that I’ve given him a second chance at life,″ Mrs. McDermott said. ″The first time, I gave him life but I had to walk away from it. Now, by helping him medically and through his ordeal, I hope this has made up for the years I couldn’t be with him.″

Now, Blanford’s doing what he says makes him ″best at being myself - selling groceries.″

In February, he opened Jerry’s Country Market in Neponset, a community of 500 people about 35 miles east of Coal Valley and 15 miles southwest of Wyanet, where he grew up with the Blanfords.

″I’ve slowed down. I’ve learned to take the time to enjoy life,″ he said.

Because of his work, Blanford said he doesn’t see his new-found Mom as often as when he first returned from Presbyterian-University Hospital in Pittsburgh after his transplant.

″The mother-son closeness is just automatically there all the time,″ Mrs. McDermott said. ″I’m still trying to absorb it all. To know him as someone else and set up a nice friendship, and then find out he’s your son - it’s still a shock.″

Blanford, who gave both his mothers blouses last Mother’s Day, said he hadn’t decided on this year’s gifts.

He said while he accepts Mrs. McDermott as his birth mother, he considers her ″more a friend″ and retains a stronger emotional tie to Mrs. Blanford.

Mrs. McDermott said she doesn’t mind ″sharing″ her son with his adoptive mother: ″We share him, but we’re not in competition over him.″

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