More Than Just A Number: Harry and Bertha Holt’s Adopted Children
Every time I read an article about the history of Korean adoption I am reminded of Harry and Bertha Holt’s role in jump-starting adoptions from Korea. Articles often reference the fact that they adopted eight children, but never have I come across any more information about who they are and what they did.
I’ve often wondered what their lives were like growing up being adopted. What were the family dynamics like in such a large household, and what insights can they share seeing the Korean adoptee community grow through organized non-profits, conferences and the blogosphere?
A few years ago when I first visited Korea, I was told that one of the Holt children committed suicide. It was something that consumed me for a long time after my trip. But it had somehow faded away until I was reading another article and it dawned on me that I had never attempted to find out anything about the circumstances of his death, or the other adoptees in the family.
Let’s start with what I’ve been able to find on the Holt KADs.
Harry and Bertha did indeed adopt eight children from Korea. Here are their names:
Joseph Holt (suicide 1984)
Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Holt (drown 1972)
Helen Holt Stampe
Betty Holt Rodriguez
Stewart Holt d 1991
Wanda Holt d 1961
Suzanne Holt Peterson
Joseph Tae Holt, was 32 when sadly, he took his own life in 1984. According to the Eugene Register-Guard, a “Resident” of the Holt home had called the authorities to report that he had threatened to take his own life, and shortly after there had been a gun shot. When the ambulance arrived, he had passed away. To read more you can follow this link to a story about his tragic death.
What is striking to me, is that most adoptees that were adopted through Holt did not know this. They know the story of the Holts, but are unaware of Joseph Tae Holt. But what it reminds us to consider is this. There have been and continue to be mental health issues for adoptees. Sadly, Joseph is not the first adoptee to have taken his own life. And who knows what his circumstances were, I’m certainly not assigning any blame but I do think it serves as a reminder that adoptees need to have mental health professionals who are sensitive to their needs.
I was also able to track down some information on another one of their children, Betty Rhee Rodriguez-Holt. It’s not much, but I found a wedding announcement in 1974. I believe she later remarried because in a short obituary honoring Bertha Holt in 2000, an NYTimes article said that she was survived by Betty Blankenship.
From that article I was able to determine that as of 2000, there were 9 of Holt children still alive.
Barbara Chambers, Suzanne Peterson, Linda Pack, Robert Holt, Mary Last, Christine Russell, Helen Stampe, Paul Holt and Betty Blankenship
Based on this, I would have to conclude that Paul Holt, Helen Stampe, Mary Last, Robert Holt, Betty Blankenship, Christine Russell are all still alive today. Perhaps this has changed over the past ten years, but I’m assuming it’s pretty accurate.
This is all I was able to come up with on the Holt adoptees in the family. I know there are a few books out there published by Bertha Holt such as “Bring My Sons From Afar: The unfolding of Harry Holt’s dream” and “The Seed from the East”
But I have yet to read these, so perhaps someone who has can shed some light on the lives of the Holt adoptees.
And of course I should also mention, that I am interested in all of the Holt family’s children, not just those who were adopted. But of course, here I am, blogging about adoptees. 🙂 With that said, I would be thrilled to hear that there are interviews out there with the Holt children. There is so much to wonder about and if anyone has information about interviews or oral history collections with them I would love to know where I could find them. -GS