It’s a story that’s almost too fantastic to believe. New next-door neighbors in Eau Claire come to realize they’re actually long lost sisters.
Last summer, Dawn Johnson made the move from Greenwood to a home on Eau Claire’s west side.
“We found this house, it was a fixer upper,” Johnson told News 18. “This house was postponed three times for closing. Somehow the house, I just, I wanted the house. I didn’t want to give up.”
She felt something was drawing her to the home and her new next-door neighbors, especially little Stella.
“A little girl from next door would constantly come over,” Johnson said. “I have two boys, so a little girl was like heaven because I’ve never had little girls and all she wanted to do was ‘Ready, Set, Go!’”
At first, Stella’s mom, Hillary Harris of Eau Claire, was unsure about letting her daughter hang around the new neighbors.
“I’m like ‘Stella! What are you doing?! We don’t even know who they are! Like, leave them alone! They may not even like little kids,’” Harris recalled.
Rewind to 2012, when a pregnant Hillary, who was adopted as a baby, started searching for the health history of her birth family.
“I was a month and a half when I was adopted. Didn’t really know any of my birth family my whole life,” said Harris. “There was always this pit in your stomach that for me you just want to know, you just want answers, you just want to know things.”
Eventually, Hillary learned the names of her birth parents and siblings and even where they were from. One of her sisters was from Greenwood and named Dawn Johnson.
“For five years, I would go on and look up ‘Dawn Johnson.’ Maybe this time I’ll find it, maybe this time I’ll find someone that looks like me,” Harris said.
So when Hillary met new next-door Dawn, also from Greenwood, she had an inkling, but no real answers because she didn’t know Dawn’s last name.
“Never asked her last name, I just knew her name was Dawn,” she told News 18. “But I knew from my history that her last name was Johnson. But I had never asked her.”
That is until a very special delivery landed in their shared driveway, with the name Johnson on it.
“My stomach dropped,” said Harris. “I called my husband right away, I was like “Lance! Her name’s Johnson, it’s Dawn Johnson! She’s from Greenwood, like, it’s gotta be her, you know! This would explain why Stella likes her so much and it was just crazy!”
“The day after my shingles were delivered we started working on the roof and then it started pouring,” Johnson explained. “So all four of us, well actually all five of us, were in the garage and Hillary just kept looking at me, trying to figure out features, like she was standing close and I’m like, ‘I do not know what’s going on!’”
After a couple of days, and some encouragement from her husband, Hillary found the courage to confront the woman she was now sure was her sister.
“Anyway I called her and was like ‘Do you remember how I told you I was adopted,’” Harris said. “[Dawn] goes, ‘Yes.’ And then she said …”
“‘Me and you have the same dad, don’t we,’” Johnson finished. “[Hillary] goes, ‘Yeah.’ I’m like Oh my God!”
“We talked for a while, a long while that night. Sent messages back and forth and she showed up with flowers the next day on my door step,” Harris said. “That literally consumed our whole summer then. It’s been consuming us for a long time, but we’re finally getting used to it. But when we tell people it’s still a shocker, you know?”
A shocker that was brought together by fate.
“Three times this house got postponed for closing and to actually share the same driveway with someone that you didn’t even know (existed) existed, was your family that you didn’t even know that you had out there,” said Johnson. “I’m very happy to have a wonderful neighbor, also my sister and I get to watch my niece! And she gets to play and I get to feel young yet.”
Despite a 19 year age difference, and those decades apart, sisterhood comes easy to the new neighbors.
“One time, I don’t even know — I lost my debit card or something,” Harris began, “and she’s trying to tell me places to look and I’m like looked there! Looked there! And she’s like I know you don’t like your big sister giving you advice and I’m like …”
“But you found it,” Johnson interjected.
“Just insane that we share the same driveway, and they just happened to move here … next to us,” Harris said.
Two homes, but one family connected by a single driveway.
Hillary hopes their story inspires other people who’ve been adopted and are looking for their birth families to never give up their search. Dawn said should someone come knocking on your door, looking for answers about their past, it’s best to keep an open-mind and an open-heart because the bigger the family, the better.