GREENVILLE–A little over two years ago, Phil Crawford of Greenville, met his half-sister, Diana (Bernheisel) Barr. Phil, who was adopted by Gerald and Velma (Richards) Crawford of Greenville, said it was a very special day.
“We had a great visit, and I learned a lot of unknown family history,” he said.
His wife, Roberta, who he refers to as “Robbie,” was there and also got to meet Barr.
At that gathering, Phil learned a lot about his birth family. He even has two brothers, Mark and Jack Bernheisel, whom he met at another gathering.
Yes, they each had the same mother, the late Billie Joan Royer, with Phil, born when she was 17 years old and single.
“I received my original birth certificate from the Ohio Department of Health in June of last year,” he recalled.”My adoptive mother hid my adoption birth certificate. She did not have a copy of the original one.”
Phil knew he was adopted as a baby because his adoptive parents were open about it.
Diana knew about it in 1980 when she had another brother besides the two she lived with while growing up.
“I found out before I got married when Mom told me,” she said. “Mom knew he lived in Greenville, but she didn’t want to stir up anything. Mom said her parents gave her no choice but adoption.”
According to Phil’s original birth certificate, he was born Dennis Paul Royer on March 11, 1947, in Montgomery County.
“I knew my birth name,” Phil said. “Dad told me in high school, but I really never did anything about it.”
The ball got rolling, however, when his daughter Erin questioned him about health issues in the family.
“I sent the original birth certificate, and her husband, Alan Ayette, found my mother’s obituary on the computer,” Phil said. “They discovered that Diana’s husband went to school with Alan’s parents and Diana’s niece works for their dentist. Erin and the niece knew each other.”
Phil then sent Diana a message, and she contacted him.
“I got a text from Phil, and absolutely, it was great,” she said. “I always wanted to do it.”
Crawford met his half-brothers, Mark and Jack Bernheisel, on one occasion at a planned meeting at JT’s in Greenville about a year ago.
Are there any similarities between Phil and his brothers?
“Jack’s color was like Mom’s,” Diana said. “I could see my mother in Phil and her brothers, especially Uncle Dick.”
Diana is 63, and Phil is 76. Mark will be 74, and Jack is 72.
Diana and Phil can tell they are blood-related.
They both like collectibles, antiques and music.
When Phil and Diana met, their get-together had an effect on each.
She said it was scary, and he said he was more anxious than scared.
They have gotten together four times since then….at Christmas, at a Noah Back concert at the Winery in Eaton, at the Preble County Council on Aging, and for the interview for this article.
Their next venture, they said, was to include a visit to Beanz in Greenville and Rob’s Restaurant in Brookville. They also plan to visit their mother’s grave in Roselawn Cemetery, Lewisburg.
Diana is really no stranger to Darke County. Her husband, John, to whom she has been married for 43 years, lived with his family outside of Palestine on U.S. 36 back in the day. His parents were John and Jeanne (Withrow) Barr.
Now, Diana and John live in Lewisburg and have three sons, Damon, Ryan, and Eric, and three grandchildren.
“We have an active family,” she said. “We had owned a pallet factory with skids, and I worked there quite a while. Other than that, I mostly did retail jobs.”
Phil and Diana believe their lives have possibly crossed in many ways before their reunion, unbeknownst to them.
“She has shopped at our antique store,” Phil said.
“I love it here in Darke County,” she said.
Phil and the former Roberta Heath were married 49 years ago. They are the parents of four children, Kim Stigler, Justin Crawford, Erin Ayette, and Margo Wheeler, and have 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“I sold for U.S. Chemical in Greenville and went to work for Rest Haven Nursing Home, starting in Findlay in the early 1980s, and worked at 12 facilities, retiring from Springmead in 2012,” he said.
All the while, he commuted from his home in Greenville.
At that job, he was self-employed and interned all over the state, covering as a fill-in, for five years.
Phil graduated in 1965 from Greenville High School and from Wright State University in 1969 with a degree in marketing and business administration. He is vice president of the local Kiwanis Club, was with the former Jaycees, is a member emeritus of the American College of Nursing Home Administrators, and is active in the Christian Missionary Alliance Church in Greenville.
Did Phil have a good life?
“Fantastic,” he said. “My adoptive parents probably couldn’t have been any better. They were hard workers.”
He has two siblings, a sister Sondra Carothers of Greenville, who is 12 years his senior, and a brother, Jerry Crawford of Pitsburg, who is 10 years older.
“When they found out about the adoption, my sister said, ‘I’m still your sister,’ and Jerry said the same thing about me still being his brother,” Phil reported.
“Phil’s daughter looks like Mom when she was little,” Diana noted.
She and Phil are both glad they got together.
Phil and Diana are diabetics; he for 15 years and she for 10.
“Mom didn’t have diabetes, but her brother and sister did,” Diana said.
Phil, who loves Hippie Fests, met Roberta on a blind date, having had met through a friend.
Diana said she met John when she worked at a pharmacy and had gone to pick up lunch in Lewisburg. He and his boss were in there, and John patronized the place frequently, and eventually, he asked her out.
What is life like now for the both of them?
“It’s now like the circle is complete,” she responded. “It’s like we’ve known each other.”
Phil said, “It opened up a lot of doors.”
“I’m sure our moms are probably having a nice chat in heaven,” Diana smiled.