Muriel Clayton, who was 16 years older than Mary, already had a family of her own, but she made as much time for her young cousin as she could. Mary was shuffled between relatives for the next few years, but at the age of 14, Mary finally found a permanent home... with Muriel and her four young daughters. Mary fit right in; it was as if she had always been one of the girls.
Years passed, and Mary grew up and went to college. There she met and married Bob Smith, and the young couple settled into their own home. But Mary and Muriel remained as close as ever. Muriel longed to make official the connection with her dear cousin - to legally adopt Mary as her daughter. But out of respect for Mary's biological mother, Muriel waited.
At the age of 73, Mary's mother passed away. Muriel still wanted to go through with her plans of adopting Mary, but was caught up in the day-to-day business of life, and the years slipped by. It was the passing years that finally prompted her to act. “I got to thinking, you know, I need to make her legally mine before I go,” she said. And on Mother's Day of this year, Muriel asked Mary if she would become her daughter - legally. Mary readily agreed.
On June 9, 2015, Muriel, now 92, and Mary, 76, stood in front of family court Judge Kim Cooks as she officially pronounced them "mother and daughter." "I've worked jigsaw puzzles, and my life has been a beautiful picture," Muriel said. "But one piece was missing, and that was Mary. And now I've got that piece in place."