Workers know that the union has a way of bringing people together, but it’s not every day that the Teamsters brings together actual blood relatives. That’s what makes the story of Mary Kay Krekan-Trout and her daughter Sandra (Sandee) Dumas so extraordinary, because that’s exactly what happened: the two had been separated and searching for one another for decades, and through what they describe as an act of God, mutual friends that they each worked with at Teamster school bus yards helped to connect them.
Krekan-Trout, Dumas and their co-workers who connected them are all members of Local 777 outside of Chicago, Ill.
“They both look alike and you can tell that they are related,” said Local 777 President Jim Glimco. “They’ve got a great relationship and it’s one of those magical stories…It’s really great.”
Mary Kay Krekan-Trout gave her daughter up for adoption when she was born. The adoption was supposed to be an open adoption, meaning that Krekan-Trout would regularly receive letters and pictures as updates on how Sandee was doing. Krekan-Trout and Dumas say that sadly it was treated as a closed adoption because of a legal mix-up. In spite of this, both of them are looking toward the future.
“It’s in the past, we’ve got a lot to do and we’re going to do it,” Krekan-Trout said.
“This is what I wanted,” Dumas said. “I turn 40 on April 18 and this is my 40th birthday present. There’s so much we’ve found out, and so much we have yet to find out, and it’s going to be an amazing adventure.”
The adventure started when Dumas took a DNA test that she got from Ancestry.com. The DNA test confirmed a mother-daughter match, and she found out her mother’s name.
Dumas began looking on Facebook, where she found out that Krekan-Trout worked for Illinois Central School Bus. Dumas had just started working at First Student, where she met Tina Applebee. Applebee was acquainted with a school bus driver named Randy Brooks, who knew Krekan-Trout. Brooks and Applebee put the long-lost mother and daughter in touch with one another for the first time since 1979.
“I told Mary Kay, ‘She looks just like you,’” Applebee said. “They were both ecstatic; they’ve been spending almost every day together since. I’m just very happy that they were able to find each other.”
“The time between reaching out to be put in contact with my mother and then meeting her, that Thursday through Friday, I think that was probably the longest time of my life,” Dumas said.
Krekan-Trout received a phone call from Brooks telling her that they had finally found her daughter, and she broke down sobbing tears of joy. Within eight hours they were in contact with one another and they made plans to meet in person at a restaurant called Alfie’s in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
“It was amazing. I thought I would never be able to find her, and then I found her,” Krekan-Trout said. “We took each other off each other’s feet. The first thing we said to one another was I love you and I’ve been looking for you.”
They stayed at the restaurant until it closed and then sat in the car for four hours talking to one another. After four decades, they had a lot of catching up to do.
They found out that they were both gaining more family members—Dumas now has another two brothers and three sisters, along with many more aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Through Dumas’ adopted family, Krekan-Trout is gaining another daughter (Sandee’s sister) and a grandson, Dumas’ biological son who she placed in an open adoption at birth.
They also found out, amazingly, that at one point they nearly worked together at the same Laidlaw school bus yard, but missed meeting each other because their periods of employment were two weeks apart.
Since reuniting, Krekan-Trout and Dumas have found out that as one would expect, they have a lot in common. Both of them love horses and horseback riding. They have similar mannerisms; both say they talk with their hands. They finish each other’s sentences.
Both of them are proud Teamsters as well. Krekan-Trout is a shop steward at her Illinois Central school bus yard, and she said that being a Teamster has made her a stronger advocate for her fellow drivers. When Dumas lived in Kansas, she was part of the initial conversations around bringing the Teamsters into the school bus yard where she worked, and the workers successfully organized the yard after she moved back to Illinois.
“If you’ve got a union backing you, you don’t have to take out a bus that’s unsafe,” Dumas said. “Working for a union shop versus a nonunion shop, the union makes conditions safer and better for everyone, and everyone has a voice.”
Sandee Dumas and Mary Kay Krekan-Trout say that after all they have been through, they will always be part of one another’s lives, and indeed they seem inseparable.
“Our interests have been pretty much parallel; our lives have been pretty much parallel, unbelievably so,” Krekan-Trout said. “She’s a bus driver, so am I. Miracles do happen, and this is one of them. The one up above had something to do with this, but the school bus industry and the Teamsters did too. It’s the luck of Local 777.”