It was the gift of a lifetime.
In February, the Ormond Beach woman purchased a 23andMe DNA kit after being convinced by her niece, Kim Donnelly. The first test did not work, but the company gave her another opportunity to submit her information. She received an email from them in March.
“When I opened up that thing (email) and I saw Paul’s name there, I said, ‘What?’” she said. “I realized I had no knowledge of him at all.”
The DNA was close to an exact match. That is when she discovered Paul Brown — her younger brother.
Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, in December 2022, Brown’s two sons gifted him 23andMe kit for Christmas. He always knew he was adopted. It was not a big deal to him — just something that he knew. He sent in his DNA and started getting emails from 23andMe.
“Part of me felt like I was just going to get worked — end up buying more reports,” he said. “What I do for a living is I get records on the radio. You don’t want to try and sell me something. You are in the deep end of the pool if you’re trying to convince me of doing something I don’t want to do. So I kind of stopped paying attention.”
Brown then received two more emails from 23andMe — an overall health history and a request for family names. He submitted his biological mother’s maiden name Dunn and her married name Donnelly.
She’s made my life fuller. I love having someone to care about and someone I want to take care of and protect. - Paul Brown
Two weeks later, he was contacted by David Yabsley, a second cousin from Devon, United Kingdom, who is also a genealogy buff. He flooded Brown’s email with family information he had been working on for 20 plus years: Pictures of great grandparents and a family tree. Nestled amidst the names of his half brothers and sisters was Rosalie Donnelly (Bernstein’s maiden name).
He reached out to Bernstein and left a voicemail. She has it saved on her mobile phone to this day.
“Good morning, Rosalie,” he said in the message. “It’s your half brother Paul Brown calling from Nashville … I’m just blown away by all of this. I’m so thrilled of the prospect of speaking with you so call when you can.”
Shortly after they talked, Brown and his wife Hillary flew to Ormond Beach to spend the weekend with Bernstein. He said they had an instantaneous connection the moment they looked at each other.
Bernstein was born on Aug. 25, 1941, at the French Hospital in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and lived in Staten Island until 1966. She and her husband Paul Bernstein moved to Ft. Lauderdale in the mid-1980s and, after two transfers for work, ended up in Ormond Beach in 2008. Bernstein is currently retired from the staffing service business. She volunteers at AdventHealth once a week and is part of WOLA — writers of the lost art of writing who meet monthly.
Brown was born in Oct. 3, 1952, raised in Rosedale in Queens and moved to Auburndale when he was nine years old. He stayed in New York and returned to New York City where he worked from 1974 until 2010. He currently owns a music promotion and marketing business named Red Hat 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Even though the two were not raised by the same parents or in the same household, the similarities are undeniable. Networking with people in business and in their every day lives has been a part their genetics from an early age. They both have boundless energy and defy societies’ definition of age.
Brown said he had no frame-of-reference before meeting Bernstein. He now has a sense of where he is going health wise and a greater sense of family.
Bernstein feels she was gifted a younger brother after four of her brothers died. “I lost four brothers, and I found Paul,” she said.
“She’s made my life fuller,” Brown said. “I love having someone to care about and someone I want to take care of and protect.”