Nancy Circelli was curious and outgoing, with delicate features and an appealing face unaffected by a fall that broke her front baby teeth. She always took the same pillow to bed, along with her teddy bear and a pink musical doll she called Thumbelina.
But Circelli didn’t learn about these things during the holidays as part of a living room family album gathering. The personal details come from documents provided by Family Services of Westchester in White Plains.
After being abandoned as an infant in Hempstead, Circelli, 54, has spent decades searching for her birth mother and the foster family that took her in until she was 3 years old.
Less than nine hours after her birth on Feb. 11, 1960, Circelli was left in an office building in Hempstead, and despite extensive local news coverage of the incident, no one stepped forward to claim her.
She lived in a foster home until she was placed by Adoption Service of Westchester (a former incarnation of FSW) with Nicholas and Helen Piermont of New Rochelle, who adopted her in 1963.
After trying for years to get more information from official channels, Circelli is now using social media to expand her search.
“I’m putting my information out there to see if anyone responds,” Circelli said. “I would love to find out where I come from, who I look like and my medical history.”
In the past month, her friend Michelle Montesione has chipped in to help with the search, reaching out to local media and spreading the word on Facebook.
“She’s such a great person. I figured I’d try to help her,” said Montesione, of New Rochelle, who has known Circelli for 16 years. “I know what it’s like to miss half your history. I recently found a sister that I didn't know I had. It’s important to her, so that makes it important to me. There’s a good chance her mother and foster family are still out there. It’s possible they’ll come forward.”
Tony Circelli, 55, has been married to Nancy for 32 years and has supported her search since they were teens. Her adoptive parents -- who had already told her she was adopted -- revealed the abandonment to her when she was 18. The Circellis, who were dating at the time, drove to the local Hempstead library to find proof.
They found two newspaper clips from the Long Island Press that reported the abandonment. Circelli, who was born premature, was placed in an incubator at Meadowbrook Hospital, now Nassau University Medical Center, until that April.
Nancy Circelli got the adoption papers her parents received before they died. But confidentiality laws prohibit authorities from providing her with any identifying information about her foster family.
The mystery haunts Nancy Circelli, who works at a day care center in New Rochelle. She’s not sure whether her time as a foster child was spent in Long Island or Westchester. A 1995 response to a letter she sent to the Nassau County Department of Social Services -- which would be able to provide her with non-identifying medical information -- said that “no foster care records now exists relating to you or your parents.”
Yet there are clues. Meadowbrook Hospital birth information she obtained about 20 years ago has the name, Jane Doe, crossed out and “Nancy Eastman” written in. Circelli has no idea if the last name is that of her foster parents. And according to FSW records, a summary was prepared by the Nassau County Department of Public Welfare on Jan. 23, 1963, six days after the state Department of Public Welfare contacted the then-Adoption Services of Westchester to request an adoptive home for her.
And there’s also a card for her third birthday. Nancy Circelli still has it; her adoptive mom said it was found with the toys that came with her when she came to live with the Piermonts. A note written on the card noted said it was possibly the last birthday she would spend with the foster family. Although the script is hard to read, it possibly refers to the “Lawrence family.”
“I’m hoping she’ll get some answers and close this chapter in her life,” Tony Circelli said. “There are lot of people that if they were in her shoes would not want anything to do with the mother that abandoned them, but that’s just not how Nancy is. She feels fortunate and blessed to have had a shot at such a great life. She feels lucky.”
Nancy Circelli has been leaving her information on adoption websites like Adoptee Central and at various Facebook groups pertaining to the subject. She even paid $90 to see if genealogy would help her find family members.
Using the website 23andMe.com, which links people who have submitted DNA samples, she found distant cousin Harriet Ottenstein Abramowitz, who lives in Texas. According to the tests Abramowitz is anywhere from a third to sixth cousin, and she had no information to provide Circelli about her lineage.
What Circelli does know is that she had a happy life as Nancy Piermont. Her adoptive parents married late and couldn’t have children of their own, so they adopted Nancy as well as brother Chris and sister, Gail.
Helen Piermont was among nine children raised in a poor household, so she made every effort to surround her children with love, often spoiling them rotten, according to Nancy Circelli.
“When Christmas came me and my siblings went to my mother’s eldest sister’s house and you couldn’t see the floor. Presents were everywhere,” she said. “We all thought we were rich, but we weren’t. Our family just made sure we had everything we wanted.”
Now, Nancy Circelli has three children of her own -- Lauren Circelli-Doria, 28, Kim Circelli, 25, and Anthony Circelli, 22. Nancy says there’s now another generation wondering where they came from.
“Even if I don’t ever find them, I've had a wonderful life, so I’m thankful they gave me the gift of life,” Circelli said of her biological and foster families. “But still, I’m never going to stop trying to find them.”