Woman found as a baby in the snow reunites with the 2 men who found her

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Forty-one years later, two men who found a baby during a chance encounter on a snow-covered Kansas City porch had a long-awaited reunion with the grown woman they met as an infant decades ago.

The men discovered the bundled baby left with a note on Jan. 4, 1982. On that day, the streets of Kansas City were snow-packed. The air was frigid.

The two men were just about to clear a friend’s driveway using Bob Hopkins’ brand new snowplow for his Jeep. His partner, Bob Whisnant, saw something moving on their friend’s back porch.

“Lo and behold, it was a baby in a box wrapped in a blanket with a note pinned to it,” Whisnant said.

They recall the note saying the baby could no longer be cared for. It asked for someone to please take care of the smiley little girl who peered up at them. “The baby was not crying,” Whisnant said. “She was as silent as the snowfall was.”

They took the baby inside James and Gloria Cooper’s home off Cherry Street to warm up. They were friends. “Had we not come along, the child would have frozen because the people in the house were in for the storm,” Whisnant said.

They contacted police, who placed the child in the care of the Missouri Division of Family Services. The child, whose birth name was Shawntell Anderson, was then adopted by a caring family who named her Tyra.

Tyra Pearl spoke with KCTV5 News by Zoom. She now lives out of state. “I’ve lived a blessed life,” she said.

She says her adoptive family told her about that snowy day back in 1982. “They’ve been supportive through everything. From the moment my mom told me I was adopted, to the moment I wanted to try to reach out, she’s given me any information I needed,” Pearl said.

Pearl didn’t know exactly who found her or that the men who found her had looked for her all these years. “The curiosity and desire to know what became of this person never left us,” Whisnant said.

Each semester, Hopkins -- who is a professor in Texas -- would tell the story of discovering a baby in the snow to his students. “I tell a lot of stories, but this one is my favorite,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins wrote about discovering a baby in his book Philanthropy Misunderstood. In 2018, he reached out to Kansas City Star Reporter Judy Thomas. Hopkins asked Thomas to please publish an article to help them find anyone who knew the baby.

Then, years later, Hopkins made a bold prediction. “This semester, I’m going to find that baby,” Hopkins recalled telling his students. “I don’t know how but I’m going to find out this semester. The next day, I would get this call.”

Javon Jackson called Hopkins after searching Google and discovering the 2018 KC Star article. Jackson is one of Pearl’s biological brothers.

“So, you are the guy who found the baby on the porch?” Jackson recalled saying to Hopkins. “I got that baby, but you know she’s not a baby anymore.”

After changes in Missouri laws made it easier to access, Pearl received her birth certificate. She contacted members of her biological family and learned her mother, who was around 16 at the time of her birth, had passed away. Pearl also reconnected with her brothers. “Once I met them, it was like I never left,” Pearl said.

At first, Pearl spoke to Hopkins by phone. “We both teared up,” Hopkins said of their first conversation.

“I really could have had my last days back then,” Pearl said. “It was important for me to meet them and tell them thank you.”

They then arranged to meet in person in Texas. “This is the baby that I held 41 years ago,” Hopkins said.

After waiting for so long, Hopkins and Whisnant finally knew the baby they found was alive and well. “One encounter in a snowstorm had ripples that are continuing, as her children will probably grow families themselves,” Whisnant said.

Hopkins said being reunited brought each person involved closure, but their story is not ending.

They cared then to rescue me and they cared enough 40 years later to still be concerned about me. That says a lot. That meant the world to me,” Pearl said. “This was my beginning, and this is my end that I needed. Now, it’s time for me to create the rest of my life.”

Hopkins says they plan to invite Pearl and her family to an upcoming family reunion.

Pearl says she is still on a journey to learn more about her biological family. She says she has not been able to learn much about her biological father. She’s hopeful that one day she might find him, too.