September 14, 2008
Mother and son reunited after 62 years
A mother and her long lost son have been reunited after 62 years, only to find they have been living just 20 miles apart all their lives
Audrey Gilder, 80, had not seen her eldest son Alf Belcher since she was forced to put him up for adoption shortly after he was born in 1946.
Falling pregnant out of wedlock, she was ordered to give him away and faced dying never having known what became of him.
Mr Belcher, 62, had spent much of his adult life wondering who and where his mother was, and in recent years became resolutely determined to track his parents down.
In 2006 he obtained a copy of his birth certificate, which began a trail that eventually led to Mrs Gilder's door.
He found they had been living only 20 miles apart from the day they were separated.
Mrs Gilder fell pregnant as an 18-year-old when she lived with her parents in the village of Abbot's Ripton, Cambs.
She was sent away in disgrace to a nearby maternity home until Mr Belcher, whom she named Philip, was born. Against her wishes, he was sent to a children's home and later adopted by a couple in Huntingdon, Cambs.
In 1948, two years after his birth, Mrs Gilder married his father, Mark Gilder, now 87, and they moved to Peterborough to begin a new life together.
Mrs Gilder, from Peterborough, Cambs, said she received a telephone call out of the blue from Mr Belcher, which led to an immediate reunion.
She said: "He rang the doorbell and I just knew he was my son, because he was the image of my brother, Peter.
"I had given up hoping this would happen. I'd missed him so desperately all these years."
Mr Belcher, an HGV driver from nearby Alconbury, added: "It's staggering to think how close we were.
"The odds are we were in the same shop, at the same time, and we probably walked past each other."
Mr Belcher always stayed within 20 miles of Peterborough, and finally settled in Alconbury - roughly 19 miles from his natural mother, in 2006.
He never knew the names of his real parents until he obtained a copy of his birth certificate later that year.
With the help of his partner, Stephanie Fletcher, 50, he scoured the telephone books, spoke to residents, and eventually found someone who knew his mother's address.
And on June 23, the date of Mrs Gilder's 60th wedding anniversary, he made a visit to their home and met his biological mum and dad for the first time.
Now Mr Belcher, a father-of-two and a grandfather-of-10, also has a new extended family - two sisters Tina, 57, Lynn, 58, and a late brother Edwin who died at the age of 17, in 1982.