Jim Kuzowsky grew up a few half mile away from Kensington and Allegheny avenues not figuring out his father’s true id nor seeing a lot of his mom.
After he was born three months prematurely in 1980, his mom Debbie dropped him off at a crowded house on Boudinot Road. She “came and went, continuing to do whatever, whenever,” Kuzowsky recalled.
He was raised by relations – primarily a cousin named Melissa Glenn, who was 13 years previous on the time – and a group that may finally, and fortunately, meet the “it takes a village” problem.
Not all DNA test revelations produce a cheerful ending
“I had very little to no involvement with her,” Kuzowsky stated of his mom, throughout an interview final week in his Port Richmond front room. “She had seven youngsters, and I’m the oldest. There have been 15 of us in that home. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I keep in mind sleeping on the ground earlier than being promoted to the sofa.
“My entire life, I always wondered who my father was. I asked questions, but I never got answers.”
In the meantime, simply across the nook on East Clearfield Road inside months of Kuzowsky’s start, a person by the identify of Dennis McGinn had lately married and bought a house within the neighborhood he’d lengthy recognized.
McGinn labored at a close-by metal mill. Involved about stability and layoffs in an business dealing with competitors from Japanese corporations, he submitted an software with the Philadelphia Police Division.
He joined the pressure in 1982, moved to Port Richmond together with his second spouse in 1984 and injured his proper knee throughout a foot pursuit 4 years later.
“I thought it was innocuous, but I tore something. They told me I can’t go back to work and wanted to put me on pension,” he stated. “I had a family. That wasn’t a good option.”
“You’re not going to get a better feeling than what I’m feeling now.” – Jim Kuzowsky
Fortunately for McGinn and his household, he was provided “secondary employment” as a claims adjuster inside the metropolis’s regulation division. (He stated he thinks he was the primary police officer to be provided such a switch, which allowed him to take care of a wage and advantages via 1996.)
From there, McGinn’s life would weave by way of personal sector jobs, from Port Richmond to Roxborough and now Carbon County (70 miles up the Northeast Extension) and into a 3rd marriage with 4 youngsters – two of them from his present spouse’s earlier union.
“I knew Debbie, but don’t remember anything other than ‘Hey, how are ya doing?’” McGinn stated. “I’d see her in the bar. We were friends.”
McGinn spoke final Thursday within the house that Kuzowsky lives together with his spouse, Kristen, 18-year-old daughter Kerri Anne and 10-year-old twins James Jr. and Kennadi.
Simply months in the past, this household would have been strangers to McGinn. However in September, a $199 genetic test unlocked a secret: Jim Kuzowsky was his organic son.
Sure, the reply to the paternal query that had painfully weighed on Kuzowsky for many years – as he bootstrapped his method via a difficult childhood, served as a police officer till accidents took him off the job, and dedicated to making a life for his household higher than the one he had – lastly arrived.
“You’re not going to get a better feeling than what I’m feeling now,” stated Kuzowsky, preventing again tears as greatest he can. “I feel complete.”
‘ALWAYS CRUSHED AND HURTING ON THE INSIDE’
On Kuzowsky’s delivery certificates, the road the place the father’s identify goes wasn’t clean. It listed James Russell Woody, the identify that additionally appeared on the delivery report for a number of of his siblings.
Woody was “popular, respected and feared, right out of the military,” as Kuzowsky vaguely remembered. Kristen shared that he possible thought he was Kuzowsky’s father, what with him apparently having handed out “baby boy” cigars within the neighborhood. Because the years glided by although, individuals began noticing the boy did not look very similar to him.
Woody died within the late 1980s, when Kuzowsky was being raised by his younger cousin and a neighborhood that seemed out for him, typically on the close by J.J.’s Bar, and pals’ mother and father who made positive he had dinner.
“They would drop me off around the corner,” Kuzowsky stated. “I was too embarrassed to let them to see my house.”
As an alternative of spiraling right into a woe-is-me existence suffering from dangerous selections and worse outcomes – comparable circumstances have led others down that street – he got down to create a greater life.
In 1998, he graduated from the Swenson Expertise Middle – the Northeast Philadelphia faculty now generally known as the Swenson Arts & Know-how Excessive – and turned the only monetary supplier for his cousin and two youthful sisters nonetheless dwelling on Boudinot Road.
“I did my greatest to be a very good individual, however I used to be all the time crushed and hurting on the within.” – Jim Kuzowsky
First, he did small jobs “just to pay the bills.” Then, he turned a union welder. His first daughter was born in 2000, however he and her mom separated a number of months later.
In 2003, he not solely moved from Boudinot Road to Mayfair, however he utilized for the police academy and was accepted.
“It was time for me to grow up and be on my own,” he stated.
That was the primary of many life circumstances mirroring these of a father he wouldn’t know for an additional 15 years.
On the academy, he met his future spouse. She was in his class and her police household “exposed me to some more normalcy outside my home,” stated Kuzowsky.
It’s not an exaggeration to say they have been blown away that a baby who spent “eight to 10 hours in a bar environment growing up” was turning into a very good man, filled with character and duty.
Nonetheless, the uncertainty of lineage weighed on him, even after he and Kristen married in 2005 and had twins three years later.
“I was staying busy, staying positive, staying around good people,” he recalled. “Once I noticed how different households sit down and eat collectively, I didn’t know that’s how issues have been purported to be.
“If I stopped working so hard, I thought I’d never get to where I wanted to be, and avoid the environment that I watched destroy so much. Keeping myself around decent people helped me be the father I wanted to be. The goal was to be what I saw in other people’s homes. I did my best to be a good person, but I was always crushed and hurting on the inside.”
As Kuzowsky completed his assertion, McGinn interjected, saying these phrases prompted flashbacks highlighting one other expertise shared by his son.
“My father passed away when I was 10 years old. I was raised by a single mom with no structure either. The family dynamic was missing,” he stated. “Rising up, I additionally steered out of hassle. I didn’t cling on corners. My brother Mike was the dangerous child. I used to be a mama’s boy.
“I’d see families called in to sit down for dinner, but I didn’t have that. I thought that when I have kids, I’d never let them grow up without a dad. I don’t want them to miss what I missed. We didn’t have the level of dysfunction (as Kuzowsky’s), but our house was always missing a family.”
With the query nonetheless gnawing him inside in 2015, Kuzowsky continued to ask round, and took a DNA test via Ancestry.com. It provided no lineage insights, although, which was crushing.
In August of that yr, he would endure the accidents that left him unable to proceed serving as a Philadelphia police officer, yet one more parallel to the lifetime of a father he didn’t but know.
Kuzowsky stated he was sitting in freeway patrol automotive quantity 26 on the 3300 block of Kensington Avenue on August 20. Together with his companion inside a enterprise round 1:30 p.m., one other car slammed into the again of the cruiser.
“The parking meter pierced the passenger-side door, so I couldn’t get out that way,” he recalled within the tone of a witness speaking from a courtroom seat. “When I got out, I saw the driver side of a 2010 Ford Fusion completely crushed. The driver pleaded guilty. There was a needle in her arm. She nodded off with her foot on the pedal. There was a large amount of heroin found inside.”
He assumed he was nice, a “macho” response. However when his lieutenant approached him at roll name the next morning, his skilled life modified for good.
“Your smile’s not the same,” he informed the usually gregarious Kuzowsky. He was despatched to the hospital, the place he discovered he’d suffered a traumatic mind damage and three crushed discs in his spinal twine.
Nonetheless eager to get again to work, he underwent six months of bodily remedy. He stated the neurologist advised him that he was “back to 90 percent” however nonetheless wanted to move an electromyography (EMG) nerve test to get cleared.
It would not occur.
“Your days as a police officer are over,” he recalled being informed in Might 2018. “I worked so hard to get back, but they didn’t give me a chance. I was too much of a medical liability. That hit me hard.”
For Kuzowsky, the job was tangible proof that perseverance by means of a tough upbringing paid off, that he’d made it.
He’d administered “life-saving CPR on an infant” and was concerned in numerous arrests starting from murder, theft and rape to aggravated assault and large-scale narcotics instances. He beloved the job a lot that he fortunately shares tales from his days on the drive (like this, this, this and this).
Among the many awards he’d acquired, together with Officer of the Month, from his time within the 18th District and Freeway Patrol Unit was an official commendation for bravery in 2006. In that case, he’d observed a stolen car by which the driving force eluded seize in the future earlier and pursued it in Southwest Philadelphia.
“During that chase, the offender retrieved a handgun from an ankle holster and turned aiming the weapon in your direction,” learn the official division commendation. “Realizing the threat was imminent and having no cover or concealment, you discharged your service weapon striking the armed assailant neutralizing the threat.”
Contemplating himself fortunate to be alive, he can be cleared within the justified capturing by each Inner Affairs and the District Lawyer’s Workplace.
Kristen, who’d left the police pressure after giving delivery to the twins, nervous about her husband shifting on from the crushing information, of a melancholy taking maintain.
(Kuzowsky is now business-management diploma from Japanese Gateway Group School. The Fraternal Order of Police is overlaying the price.)
As her father grappled with disappointment, Kerri Anne – Kuzowsky’s oldest daughter – determined to provide a 23AndMe genetic test a whirl.
In contrast to the one her father tried three years earlier, Kerri Anne acquired an uncommon hit: she was a 12.5 % match for a person named Michael McGinn. The numbers meant that he was probably her nice uncle.
Each had opted in to permit matches to see a possible connection, so getting in contact was straightforward.
As she was sending a notice to Michael on August 7, she acquired one from him. He needed to let her know he was prepared to speak.
Michael, aka Massive Mike, quickly referred to as his brother Dennis. He stated notifications he’d gotten prior to now linked him to potential distant family members however “this 12.5 percent is bugging me. There’s something here. I know the name. I know exactly where the (Kuzowksy family) house was.”
“What the hell does that mean to me?” Dennis recalled responding.
“I don’t know what, yet,” got here the response.
Kuzowsky used to hang around with Mike McGinn’s 4 youngsters after faculty a number of days every week. They have been one of many neighborhood households who appeared out for him.
“I’d even eat dinner there,” he stated of buddies who have been actually his unknown cousins. “It was as functional a home as I’d ever seen when I was younger.”
Quickly, the connections have been firing. Mike remembered Kuzowsky as “Little Jimmy.” He informed Kuzowsky that he’d by no means dated Debbie, however that didn’t imply the potential connections had disappeared.
“I’d like to reach out to my brother Dennis,” Mike stated. “If this plays out the way it’s looking like it could, I can tell you that you hit the jackpot. You won’t find a better man, father or brother than Dennis. If I was half the man that Dennis is, I’d be in a better place today.”
The dialog helped shake Kuzowsky from his skilled and private doldrums. He requested if he might ship a photograph, and did.
“S***, Jim, let’s not waste time taking another test,” Mike responded. “You look more like my brother than my nephew Dennis Jr.”
Dennis McGinn was floored when he noticed the resemblance in photographs from his brother.
“When I opened the picture, my heart sunk. I was looking at me. How could this happen?” McGinn requested.
He knew then that he had one other son, and that he hadn’t been there for him for his 38 years on earth. Not solely that, however Jim Kuzowsky’s life had so many parallels to his personal, together with working in the identical police district (the 18th) and being educated by a few of his former friends, that it was downright spooky.
The son recalled the time he requested his father if he was positive he’d by no means met his mom.
“I wasn’t right for a week. I couldn’t sleep. I was racking my mind,” he responded a number of months again. “But I still have no memory of that day or night.”
To ease what little rigidity had come into the lounge, Kuzowsky did some math based mostly on his birthday and the timing of his untimely arrival into the world.
“I have to be a St. Patrick’s Day baby,” he stated with a hearty snigger.
‘I KNEW DEBBIE BUT I WAS NEVER WITH HER’
From these preliminary conversations with Massive Mike, issues began falling into place relatively shortly.
Mike referred to as Dennis with the potential information, asking if he remembered the Kuzowsky household on Boudinot Road.
He did, recalling that the grandmother was a crossing guard.
When informed of the match, Dennis questioned whether or not Mike had been playing around with Debbie, who lived proper throughout the road.
“I knew Debbie, but I was never with her,” Dennis recalled saying. “This is really weird.”
In the meantime, Kuzowsky needed to make it completely clear to Mike that he wasn’t on the lookout for “any problems” or cash.
“It all fell into place at that point. It wasn’t even awkward. Their personalities, mannerisms, they were the same. It was weird. Like mirror images.”
“If nothing else, I’m looking for some closure, some medical information and someone else for my kids to call ‘Pop Pop.’ If he’s interested in talking further, I’m grateful for whatever I get out of this.”
Quickly, Dennis texted his son. They adopted up with a telephone name suggesting that he deliver his household to Mike’s home to satisfy in individual and speak.
“Sure, tell me what time and I’ll be there,” Kuzowsky stated.
Arriving at Mike’s house, Kuzowsky noticed the FOP sticker on Dennis’ truck. Moments later, he noticed his father for the primary time in his life. The date was August 12, 2018. He simply knew.
“It all fell into place at that point. It wasn’t even awkward,” Kristen stated. “Their personalities, mannerisms, they were the same. It was weird. Like mirror images.”
“It was so comfortable. I felt it. I was blown away,” stated the son.
Testing wasn’t finalized but, although. They have been informed to anticipate a six-to-eight-week wait.
The suspense was killing them, although, in order that they did a cheek-swab DNA test with a three-to-five day anticipate outcomes delivered by way of telephone name.
“’James, are you sitting down? Is this a good time to talk?’” he recalled of the dialog that modified his life perpetually. “’The outcomes present with 99.99 % certainty that Dennis McGinn is your father.’
“Obviously, I was floored,” Jim Kuzowsky said. “Every day from that day forward has been better than the one before, if that’s possible.”
At Shady Maple Smorgasbord in Lancaster County in September, he met the 4 siblings he by no means knew he had – Tara, Michelle, Dennis Jr. and John – alongside together with his new mother-in-law Roxanne, nieces and nephews.
“Going in, I was unsure. I didn’t know how welcoming they would be toward me, but they were completely warm and so welcoming, so that made it a lot easier,” a beaming Kuzowsky admitted two hours into sharing his life story. “We’ve remained in touch ever since and talk often.”
There have been vacation gatherings, together with Christmas Eve in Port Richmond, and a November household get-together at a fireplace corridor in Honey Brook, Chester County. There, the father-son connection was on dance-floor show for all to see.
“My personality is outgoing. I’m told I’m too positive, that I smile too much. I love to dance,” he stated, prompting one in every of his new siblings to say, “Dad can dance, too.”
Watching them groove by means of the gang as “Cupid Shuffle,” “Percolator” and “We Are Family” performed, Kristen simply knew.
“They have very similar rhythm,” she stated. “When they were next to each other, people were just shaking their head in disbelief. It was so obvious.”
“It’s one thing exhausting that I’ll need to reconcile, having not been there elevating a toddler. I by no means needed my youngsters to develop up and not using a father like I did. The one factor we will do is comply with up from right here.” – Dennis McGinn
Immediately, the household provides off no airs of something however love and marvel.
For Kristen, the timing was miraculous. With the accidents having taken Kuzowsky’s job away, the potential for rock-bottom spiraling had been averted.
For Dennis McGinn, it was meant to be.
“Things happen for a reason. You’re living through what I lived through,” he stated. “I didn’t know the place this was going to go relationship-wise when all this began occurring, however I knew I used to be right here to assist him by means of that course of.”
Then, he began speaking about what it is wish to study you’ve gotten a toddler who was virtually 40 years previous.
“It’s something hard that I’ll have to reconcile, having not been there raising a child,” he shared. “I never wanted my kids to grow up without a father like I did. The only thing we can do is follow up from here.
“Anyone who knows me would say I’m reliable, dependable and if someone needed me, I’d be there. Those are the same things people are saying about my son.”
To Jim Kuzowsky, the flip of occasions solely confirms that he’d lived a great life – when he simply might have gone a unique path.
“It’s just all so surreal,” he stated.
HE TRIED TO LET HIS MOM KNOW
Debbie continues to be alive, although not many individuals within the household talk together with her. Although Kristin remembers her placing an advert within the paper to have fun their births, she stated her youngsters have by no means met their grandmother.
Kuzowsky felt compelled to let her find out about what the DNA test revealed, so he despatched her a message by way of Fb Messenger.
Together with his father sitting simply ft away, he learn it off of his smartphone.
“I’m not sure if you knew or if you even care, but my dream came true and I was fortunate enough to find out,” Kuzowsky stated of a message despatched 4 months in the past.
It was by no means answered.
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