Siblings Monica Schuss and John Tomanelli are always baking. It’s one of the many things they love to do together. But they don’t have any family recipes, so they’re creating their own family traditions. That’s because after they were adopted as children, they finally found each other in a time span that seemed like a lifetime.
“He’s 53 and I’m 60,” said Monica. “We only met two years ago, so you’re talking about 58 for me and 51 for him. That’s a lot of time to catch up on.”
Monica is seven years older than her brother John — a brother she didn’t know she had growing up as an adopted, only-child in Richmond Hill, Queens.
“I never had a birth certificate,” Monica said. “It was incredibly difficult to find anything from that name, especially back then. There was nowhere to go.”
John grew up farther east on Long Island. He was also adopted into a family with older parents like Monica’s.
“I grew up kind of shy with a lot of anxiety and my world was very small,” John said. “I lived very cautiously because I was alone.”
They were both living with a void — a missing ingredient. When they got older, they registered with the New York State Adoption Registry. John registered in 1991 and Monica did in 1998. But decades passed with no word. They both married and had children, but the feeling of wondering if a sibling was out there never went away.
Then in March of 2019, they got letters with each other’s name and address. Monica rushed to find her long lost brother on social media.
“I wrote ‘Hi John, did you get the letter?’ that’s all I wrote because I figured if it was him, he would know,” she said.
They met and instantly felt complete.
“We were like, this far apart, and we just hugged and we didn’t let go and it was incredible,” Monica said. “Just this warm feeling of love when we never even met, but we knew, it was just instantly knowing.”
All those years, Monica and John held tight to their faith even when they felt they had nothing else.
“I always believed because I was a good person and always been good to others and done the right thing and lived the right way, that this was the miracle I got back,” Monica said.
John put his faith into action as well.
“I’ve asked God to just put me where I should be and if I do the right things, one day I’ll be rewarded,” John said. “And this was my reward —meeting Monica.”
At the beginning of the pandemic they knew they couldn’t be apart, so John moved in with Monica and her children and pets in Ozone Park.
As their family blended, they knew what happened to them wasn’t an accident — there were just too many signs.
“The first day we spoke was our mother’s birthday,” the two siblings said. “That day, I got the letter with her name on it. It was also the day our biological aunt acknowledged she was our aunt. We have the same birthday. Her son is one day later. Our adoptive mothers passed away the same year.”
They prayed they’d find each other for so long. Now their wish is to help others like them.
“If you don’t give up and just keep the faith, you will be blessed,” Monica said. “It happened to us and it can happen to other people too. We want to help others feel what we feel.”
Now, there are no more questions — they have each other and it’s all the proof they need.