My Birth Mother, The Fashion Model

After 22 years, her birth mother's children found her, and she discovered an amazing history and heritage.

by Suzie Fedorko • Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

I am an adoptee who has been reunited with my birth family. I began searching for my birth family when I turned 18, and I was finally located at the age of 40. All it took was one phone call from a half sister who decided to try to locate the daughter her mother talked about. My birth mother’s name is Cathee Dahmen. She was a young Native American girl from Minnesota. At the age of 16, she gave birth to me in June of 1962. 

Cathee tried to keep me for my first year of life, and when I was 11 months old, her own mother (Mary Morrison/Dahmen) took me away one day while Cathee was at school.

This decision of putting me up for adoption angered Cathee and caused stress between Cathee and her mom. So Cathee decided to move out East to live with her uncle George Morrison (Mary’s brother). Cathee eventually finished high school in Providence, Rhode Island. She helped her Aunt Hazel and Uncle George in and around their art studio. Uncle George was a well-known artist at the time.

From what I have been told, Cathee enjoyed her life in Providence.
 I believed that she had thoughts about me and wondered where I went to after she left Minnesota. 

My adoption was finalized in 1964, and I was adopted into a middle class Caucasian family who already had two other children. My adoptive parents became Lloyd and Virginia Smith. They changed my name to Susan Smith, and I began my life as "Susie." I had a very loving Catholic upbringing that was stable and concrete.

Somehow Cathee happened to be in the right place at the right time. She was discovered by Antonio Lopez, a well-known fashion illustrator. Immediately after high-school graduation, Cathee convinced her aunt and uncle to let her move to New York City with Antonio. Antonio had promised that she would do well as a fashion model. 

Cathee moved into Antonio Lopez’s apartment above Carnegie Hall. Their plan was for Cathee to pass off as being Antonio’s little sister. Cathee quickly moved up the ladder with her modeling career and became an Eileen Ford model. During the late 1968-1972 era, Cathee had been on the cover of 100 fashion magazines.

The very first photos that I got to view of my birth mother were Cathee on the cover of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

 Cathee had two marriages several years after my adoption. Through those two marriages, she went on to have three more children. I have met all of them and think dearly of them. Cathee’s second daughter decided to reach out to find me in November of 2002. I had posted some information on an adoption-search reunion site and indicated that I was interested in finding my biological birth family. I think my posting had been up for at least a couple years. It took Sarah only one day to find me after she began her search. I had tried more than 20 times to search through my adoption agency, and since Minnesota is a closed-adoption law state, I was never able to get any results. 

My several year search spanned from the time I turned 18 and up until I was about 38 years old. It took Sarah a little over a day to locate me. Through this search site, adoptees are able to leave information by state, date of birth, gender, and any pertinent information that an adoptee could have. Sarah connected with me via a phone call to my work voicemail. I came into work on a Monday, and checked my voice mails and got the phone call that changed my life. (I still have this voicemail recorded.) I remember freezing in my stance while listening to her voice, not knowing who she was. I eventually called her back, and found out that she was my half sister and her name was Sarah.

 Sarah had introduced herself to me as my sister. Sarah was Cathee’s second daughter. She also told me that Cathee had two other children from her second marriage.

Share Your Thoughts!


Suzie Fedorko05.20.2012

AMI- DNA testing was done. I am a 94% compatable match to my Uncle. (Cathee's younger brother) This was shared only with family. I am Catherine's 1st daughter.. issue resolved!!!

Ami Yamagauchi08.13.2011

Hi I was a close friend of Cathee and once I read this story I was amazed. She was notified that a young girl was trying to get in contact with her claiming that she was her daughter, and Cathee asked the young girl if she would like to meet in New York for a DNA test. The girl said no, therefore Cathee angrily said that she was just trying to get publicity. She told me this when her kids and my kids played together at our house one day her family came over. A couple of years later her sister told her about another woman and Cathee did not want to deal with the bulls**t. I am so disappointed that her children did not go with their mother's wishes of getting proof, she would turning in her grave at the foolishness.

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