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After 30 years apart, dad finds daughter via Web

Neither of them knew it, but they’d been looking for each other for more than a decade. Scott Becker was looking for a daughter named April. He knew she was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1979. He knew little else about her. April Becker Antoniou was looking for the father whose name — Scott Robert Becker — was on her birth certificate. She knew little else about him.

Over the years, Antoniou typed her father’s name into Internet search engines and people finders. But she never landed at AprilBecker.com — a Web site Becker had set up years earlier for the sole purpose of finding her.

Then on Nov. 4, Antoniou sat down at her computer and typed in the words, “Scott Robert Becker looking for April.” Google took her straight to AprilBecker.com.

“Dear April,” it read. “When you read this, please send an e-mail to: april@aprilbecker.com. Im your Dad and I would really like to talk to ya.”

“When that Web site popped up, I was just absolutely floored,” said Antoniou, a teacher who lives in suburban Atlanta.

In the headline at the top of AprilBecker.com, Antoniou’s middle name is spelled “Joi.”

“Nobody knows that I spell it ‘J-OI,’ ” she said. “I knew right away that that was him.”

Scott Becker, who owns a restaurant in Kiowa, said he spotted her e-mail as he was about to go to bed. The subject line read, “I think you might be my dad.”

To confirm her identity, Becker asked her mother’s maiden name. And he asked, “Are you a green baby?”

“Instantly I got an e-mail back,” he said. “It said, ‘Of course I’m a green baby” and mentioned she was born on St. Patrick’s Day.

“I was overwhelmed. I’m a happy guy.”

Two days after that e-mail exchange, Becker was on a plane to Atlanta. Local television stations picked up the story. Matt Lauer called from the “Today” show, and they spent two days in New York.

“I mean it’s been a whirlwind,” Becker said. “I’ve gotten well over 2,000 e-mails, from all over the world, and not one of them was negative. They’ve been coming in from Italy, Brazil, France, Russia. All congratulating us on finding each other.”

Antoniou said her children, Brooke, 4, and Aidan, 6, warmed quickly to their grandfather during his 10-day visit.

“Brooke especially took a liking to him,” she said. “They got along like peas and carrots.”

Becker is celebrating Thanksgiving today with his wife, Sue, and their 17-yearold daughter. He said he hopes to be joined for Christmas by Antoniou and her children. They have never been to Kansas.

The break-up

Becker last saw his daughter in 1979, when she was a few months old and the family was living in southern California. A fight prompted April’s mother to leave home.

“She just went off the deep end and took off,” Becker said. Antoniou knows the story. “I know that they had a disagreement, and my mom thought it was best to leave,” she said. “I blame them both equally for making a poor decision,” she said. “After 15 or 20 years, I decided I wasn’t going to be angry about it.” She said the decision left a hole in her life. “For a girl not knowing her dad, not having a father figure. . . . Growing up not knowing half the person you are is very hard.” Becker said he no longer carries a grudge against his former wife, who now lives in Tulsa.

“It was 30 years ago,” he said. “She did what she did. It was what it was. I’m not a guy to hold grudges.”

Antonio said her mother remarried shortly after the break-up. She was 5, she said, when she learned her stepfather was not her biological father. She started asking questions.

By then, Becker was actively looking for his daughter, who was no longer a Becker.

The search begins

Becker said he spent $40,000 on private detectives over the years looking for April. Antoniou said she spent countless hours looking for her father. Both were hampered by what turns out to be a relatively common last name.

In Kansas alone, there are 1,299 registered voters named Becker. The 2000 Census counted 88,114 Beckers, making it the 315th most common surname in the United States.

“I spent thousands of dollars looking for her, but I just could never find her,” Becker said. “I had a first, middle and last name, and her birthday. But I didn’t have a social security number. The private investigators couldn’t find her.”

Antoniou’s luck was no better.

“I tried people finders, but I really couldn’t afford a private detective,” she said.

“I knew a little bit about him from what my mom told me, but I had never seen him. I had two pictures and a wedding announcement in my photo album, and then his name on my birth certificate. I knew how old he was, but I didn’t even know his birthday.”

They went on with their lives.

Becker eventually met his current wife, a Kiowa native, while living in Texas. They returned to Kansas more than 20 years ago, and now own Plum Thicket Inn in Kiowa.

Antoniou, meanwhile, married and had her two children while living in southern California. She moved to Atlanta two years ago, and is now in the process of getting a divorce.

After striking out with the private detectives, Becker took his search to the Internet about 10 years ago. He bought the domain name AprilBecker.com and began his search.

Over the years, he said, he had several false alarms, and some would-be scammers. But mostly, he said, he had silence.

“I hadn’t had a hit on that address in two years,” he said.

Even if she found her father, Antoniou said, she had no idea what he would be like.

“You think the worst-case scenarios,” she said. “Is he alive? Is he dead? If he is alive, is he a bum? Maybe he just doesn’t care. Maybe he’s a deadbeat dad. Maybe he’s very successful — a doctor, maybe, or a businessman or a lawyer.

“But if he was so successful, why couldn’t he find me? Maybe he had no way really finding me.”

Antoniou turned 30 this year and was about to give up.

“This year, I really thought, ‘OK, I’m never going to find him. I’m 30 now, and I probably need to get over it and get on with my life.”

Becker, too, wondered about his daughter.

“I didn’t know what she was going to be like,” he said. “She could have been a crackhead for all I knew.

“It turns out she’s a thirdgrade school teacher with two wonderful kids.”

Although he missed the first 30 years of his daughter’s life, he remains thankful.

“I’ve got another 30 years to look forward to,” he said.

Antoniou said she hasn’t solidified plans for Christmas, but would like to visit Kiowa.

“I always get very sentimental around the holidays,” she said.

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