A Father & Daughter Meet
Al Stocker Unites with His Unknown Daughter
Story and Photo By John Thomas
For years Ellicottville resident Al and Hannelore Stocker kept a map of the world on the wall behind his home office desk. It was littered with push pins denoting the numerous countries they have visited over the years. As an executive with GM, Al and Hannelore traveled to many foreign countries. The Executive retired some years ago and was living a life of leisure and grandchildren, until one day a letter arrived. “Dear Alan,” it began, and was from a woman the Stockers had never heard of, and for a moment he thought it might be a scam. But as Al read the woman’s story certain patterns began to unfold. It mentioned familiar names, Al’s relatives, and DNA.
The woman was Margaret Griffin. Born in 1961 in Buffalo, she was adopted by New York State Assemblyman Francis Griffin and his wife. They were a loving family, and Margaret’s father took her to the Assembly where she met most of the state’s political class. She went to Hilbert College for her Associate’s Degree, then on to UB for a dual major, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. The adoptee started work in advertising, and in 1992 started her own successful company: Griffin Media. She married and had three sons. Eventually, the family moved to Charlotte North Carolina. As loving has her adoptive parents were and as happy as her own family life has been; Margaret couldn’t escape the feeling of being incomplete. Both she and her children, when questioned about their family origin or history, had to answer that information was not available.
The letter also gave contact information for Margaret from the detective hired to contact Al. Several phone calls later a meeting was arraigned. Margaret and her husband flew up from Charlotte. When father and daughter saw each other for the first time the bond was instantaneous.
Margaret Griffin’s search for her biological father began some 28 years ago after the death of her adoptive parents. She describes her childhood as a “wonderful experience,” but something was missing. She realized she didn’t look like her parents. She wanted to know where she came from, “Where’s my tribe,” she would ask herself. Growing up in staunch Polish and Irish Buffalo, her lack of self-history, “drove me crazy, I truly felt like an orphan,” she adds, a tear forming in her eye. For years the search was fruitless, and she would give it up. But always something new would pop up, and Margaret would take up the quest again. Six years ago, she declared she was done searching. Then she heard about Ancestry DNA. She submitted a DNA sample, and about a year ago the results came back. The report showed 12,600 matches, including several first cousins. One of the cousins is a genealogist who explained the intricacies of centimorgans and DNA strands. The results revealed a strong first cousin match with a man whose father turned out to be Al’s brother.
DNA is the legal standard for proving parenthood, but the connection between Al and Margaret goes far beyond mere chromosome markers. As they have gotten to know each other, they have shared many “oh yea” moments and discovered a host of common habits and idiosyncrasies. Al says he could not be “more proud” of his new daughter, and Margaret says she “couldn’t envision anybody better” to be her biological father. “I feel like a kid on Christmas morning!” She says. Margaret and her husband Roy are looking to purchase a house in Hamburg so they can spend time with her new family.
When anticipating their first meeting, Margaret was wondering what sort of gift she should bring her newfound father. What would be the perfect gift to a man she is a part of, had never met and knew virtually nothing about? She brought him a map of the world. It now hangs behind Al’s desk in his office. Magnetic disks have replaced the pushpins from the old map, but there are more now. One set of pins show Al and Hannelore’s travels as before, and the new set shows the destinations Margaret has reached. They reveal the common bond of their love of travel. And, in a way, they chart the course of a 28-year long journey to create a family.