Deanna Shrodes, who was adopted as a child, was building a family in Florida while at the same time trying to learn about her origins. After years of searching, she met her biological mother, who died before she could reveal the identity of her biological father.
Shrodes was determined to get answers about her father — and got her prayers answered in the process.
Shrodes found her biological mother, Sally King, when she was 27. But King wasn’t ready to meet her – at first. “And then I went and met him in person,” Shrodes said. “I just showed up, knocked on the door.”
They endured a relationship for 20 years, until the king’s death. When she did, she took a secret with her to the grave: the name of Shrodes’ biological father. King did not want to reveal his name to Shrodes.
Shrodes did not know that his mother was ill and that “the cancer was flourishing.” She died in August 2019, a few months after her diagnosis.
The story almost ended there, but King told Schrode two important things about her father: he was Greek and was from Richmond, Virginia. So she began creating a private Facebook group, gathering a group of friends and volunteers who would help find her. She signed up with several DNA registries, hoping science would lead her to her father.
After ten years of searching, Shrodes, an ordained minister, turned to his higher power for help and prayed fervently.
“I told my husband, I told my best friend Laura … I said, ‘Listen, guys, you may think I’m crazy, but I was in prayer. God said this to me: Your father’s The name is Gus.'”
Sure enough, in May of this year after almost getting the surprise of a lifetime, her prayers were answered. There was a DNA match – from a cousin she never knew she had.
“I reached out to this cousin and I said, ‘We just matched on 23andMe’ … and she said, ‘I think you’re my Uncle Gus’ daughter.’ And I said, ‘I think so too.'”
His name is 92 year old Gus Nicholas. He lived in Richmond all his life and was a bachelor who never married. He was a retired ballroom dance instructor.
“I set myself out to find a grave, and now I found a person, and it was absolutely amazing,” Shrodes said. “Can’t believe I found a person.”
The very next day Shrodes called him.
“My heart was beating out of my chest,” she said. “I was like, ‘How’s it going to be?’ And will he accept me? Would he like to see me?”
But he was very excited, according to Shrodes.
“He said, ‘I woke up this morning and I was alone. … And now this afternoon I have a daughter. I have a son-in-law. I have three grandchildren. I have great-grandchildren. … I am no longer alone in the world. Is.'”
“And I said, ‘No, you’re not. You’re not.'”
Within a week, Shrodes was at Gus Nichols’ bedside.
As it turns out, just four months before they met, Nikolas collapsed at home. He was found lying on the floor and could no longer care for himself.
The state placed her in a nursing home – and that’s where they first met.
“Gus would say to me … ‘Please don’t let me die here. Don’t let me die here.’ And I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to make sure.'”
They are father and daughter, but still strangers – what happened next is absolutely remarkable: Shrodes asks her to stay with him.
And so, 56 years after she was adopted — and 75 short days after she first called her dad — Shrodes and her husband, Pastor Larry Shrodes, took Nicholas out of the nursing home and brought him to Tampa, Florida. Brought out to his house.
The Shrodes’ guest room is now their bedroom. There are some mementos he asked her to bring from his Richmond home, such as his trophies, dancing shoes, favorite hat, and a photo of the good old days.
Shrodes and her husband now care for her full-time. She cooks his food – Greek, he likes it – and feeds him.
Shrodes is determined to give back to the man who gave him life, till the very end. He has only asked her one thing: will you tell me everything about yourself?
She said it was the most rewarding job she has ever done.
“It’s the hardest thing to do. It’s the most meaningful thing. It’s the most incredible miracle I’ve had the privilege of living so far,” she said. “I’m living the dream.”