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Long-lost siblings finally meet

Lauren Peters and her brother Richard Auer, who met for the first time last week, stand at Saranac Lake’s Berkeley Green Sunday, a drawing of their mother behind them. (Enterprise photo — Amy Scattergood)

SARANAC LAKE — As Lauren Peters, 49, and Richard Auer, 54, sit across from each other at a picnic table at Berkeley Green park, they interrupt each other, filling in the blanks of each other’s sentences and questioning small details like the siblings they are. This despite the fact that they met each other for the first time only a week before.

Peters grew up in Bedford, Massachusetts, with her father, seeing her mother occasionally over the course of her childhood. When she was 16, her mother, Jude Mulder, an alcohol and drug addict, told her that she had a brother who had been given up for adoption as a baby.

Auer, meanwhile, grew up in the Bronx as an only child of parents knowing he was adopted, but little else.

“I’d been living in this void of personal history,” said Auer, who had a peripatetic life, working as the Bronx Zoo when he was younger, following the Grateful Dead band for years, and living in India, Hawaii, Santa Fe and finally Oklahoma, where he and his wife live now.

Peters had a more settled life, growing up with her father, a milkman and photographer. She had long a career as a correctional officer before moving to Saranac Lake a few years ago to be closer to two of her four grown children and 11 grandchildren. Her son lives in Saranac Lake, her daughter in Lake Placid.

Jude Mulder, Lauren Peters’ and Richard Auer’s mother, poses in an undated photo with their younger brothers Dennis Strandberg on left and Brian Strandberg on right. (Provided photo — Lauren Peters)

“I thought my grandmother was my mother until I was 9 years old,” said Peters, who described her mother as a troubled woman who stole her identity, using her name and Social Security number to cash in Peters’ benefits over the years. Her mother had ended up in prison in Florida for writing bad checks and for Social Security fraud, said Peters.

Mulder died in 2009 at the age of 61 from a drug overdose. Peters’ father died in one of the planes on 9/11.

One year, Peters’ kids gave her an Ancestry.com membership as a Christmas present.

“It led me to Facebook groups,” said Peters. “On one of the Facebook groups I found this woman who was once a private investigator, and also an adoptee. She’s dedicated her life to finding people, for free.”

Peters said that once the woman helped her learn where to look for her brother, it didn’t take too long to find him. Auer, it turns out, had been on the state of New York’s adoption registry since he became an adult.

Jude Mulder (Provided photo — Lauren Peters)

“I found him on the first try,” said Peters, as her brother nodded from across the table and unrolled a charcoal drawing of their mother. The siblings wore matching sweatshirts printed with the phrases “I’m a new little sister” and “I’m a new big brother.”

“Once they verified my identity,” said Peters of New York’s adoption information registry system, “they sent me his.” Peters then got in touch with her brother’s ex-wife through Facebook, and she contacted Auer. Peters got in touch with her brother, and they decided to finally meet in person, despite the pandemic. They both got tested, and Auer drove from Oklahoma to upstate New York.

“Insta-family,” said Auer. “Just add water and poof.”

“My kids are really happy about it,” said Peters as she scrolled through old photos on her iPad and she and her brother compared dates and memories.

“It feels like I’m home,” he said.

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