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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Wildwood Woman Finds Half-Sister Through 23andMe

A young John Fritz

A young John Fritz, the father of Lisa Vallese and Jennifer Mossor. Fritz met Valleses mom while on leave from the U.S. Navy, but never knew she existed. He died nine years ago from cancer. 

By Karen Knight

WILDWOOD – A Wildwood woman got the surprise of her life recently when a DNA test showed she had a half-sister living about 90 miles away.  

Lisa Vallese, 45, grew up in Town Bank in a family she described as “all Irish,” with fair skin, red hair, and freckles. 

“As you can see, I’ve got very dark hair. I am olive-skinned, so I grew up knowing that I looked different from everyone else in my family,” Vallese said. “My family’s sense of humor is also different from mine. I grew up where one of the family jokes was that I had a different dad. You know, as a kid, your dad is your dad, so I kept saying, ‘My dad is my dad.’ 

“Well, all my mom’s brothers and sisters knew the truth,” she said. “Just recently, I did a DNA test on 23andMe because I was looking for help with some health issues, and I got a match! I forgot about my original reason for doing the test and just wanted to find out about my half-sister.” 

Jennifer Mossor, of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, also had a DNA test done for health reasons, so her information was already in the database.  

“My family joked that we would find siblings all over the country,” Mossor said. “I always wanted a sister, so this was like putting a puzzle together with all the different pieces.” 

Vallese’s mom had met Vallese’s biological father when she was 18 and he was about 24 and on leave from the U.S. Navy. Her mom became pregnant but had met someone else shortly thereafter who she married. 

“My dad knew my mom was pregnant, but it didn’t matter,” Vallese said. “He always treated me like I was his own child.” 

Mossor said neither of her parents knew of Vallese. Her father died nine years ago from colon cancer.  

“My mom has stage 4 breast cancer now and has been going through a lot, so I wasn’t sure if I should tell her,” Mossor recalled. “I talked about it with her best friend, who thought it would be a great thing and encouraged me to tell her.” 

“My mom could tell I had something to tell her, and when I did, she said, ‘Your dad was a very attractive man, after all,'” she said, chuckling. “My mom would have loved to have known about Lisa (Vallese) and would have wanted her to be part of the family growing up.” 

Vallese is now married with a 24-year-old son. Mossor, 34, is also married and has two children. Both couples met for the first time in March to celebrate Mossor’s birthday. 

Initially, they emailed a few times before speaking on the phone. They’ve spoken almost daily since first connecting Feb. 24 “for hours.” 

“Jenn (Mossor) has given me so much information about my dad,” Vallese said. “From the very beginning, she’s wanted me to feel a part of the family with a connection to my dad. Whenever we talk, she will point out something that I do that reminds her of our dad.”  

“She’s shared so much already, and I can’t wait to meet more of my dad’s family,” she added. 

So far, the families spent their first holiday together at Easter in Wildwood, and they are planning a visit to Mossor’s home, so Vallese can meet Mossor’s mother and her biological father’s family. She said her parents are happy for her, as well. 

“We plan to keep visiting, bringing our kids to the Boardwalk, getting to know each other,” Mossor said. 

“I just feel happiness about everything that’s happened,” Vallese added.  

Contact the author, Karen Knight, at kknight@cmcherald.com. 

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