Nineteen-year-old Julie Mannix Von Zemeck was forced to choose between terminating her pregnancy or being committed to a mental institution. The decision would change the rest of her life.
Julie was expecting a child with her boyfriend, Frank, who, it was discovered, was married to somebody else. Abortion was illegal in 1963, and giving birth to a child out of wedlock was a scenario that Julie’s parents were not prepared to entertain. They decided to protect the family’s reputation; they left Julie in a hospital for the mentally disturbed and criminally insane, alone, for six long months.
FROM THE BOOK:“The Main Line is notorious for eccentric people who are received as normal. A dowager driving herself…
Julie was “a debutante from the Main Line of Philadelphia,” and her father and mother were a journalist and writer, respectively. Describing her parents as “strange and glamorous,” the young expectant mother was under great pressure to bow to their wishes.
However, she chose to save her baby, and endured months of desperate loneliness to do so. “On April 19, 1964, at a Catholic Charities hospital near Philadelphia, I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy little girl,” Julie wrote, sharing her story with Cosmopolitan. “I was allowed to see her only once, from 5 feet away, before I gave her up.”
Julie and Frank von Zerneck on set in Munich, 1976
Julie reluctantly signed the adoption papers to give up her daughter, named Aimee. “I just desperately wanted my child, a baby conceived in love, with a man I loved, to live,” Julie wrote. “[But] my heart ripped apart,” she confessed. “I put down the pen, turned away, and, on shaky legs, I left my baby behind.”
View this post on Instagram
Julie was sent home from the hospital the day after she gave birth. Upon returning to the family home, Julie discovered that her parents had lied about her six-month absence and kept her pregnancy a secret from everybody. “That’s heartless,” Julie shared, remembering her distress. “It’s a horrible thing.”
Happy Mother's Day to one and all…Julie and Kathy had such a wonderful time yesterday on the WebbWeaver Radio show,…
Frank was divorced during Julie’s institutionalization, and the pair, very much in love, married in 1965. They moved to New York City and Julie became an actress. Every year, with heavy hearts, the married couple acknowledged their beloved Aimee’s birthday on April 19; their wedding rings were even inscribed with the special date.
They had two more children together: Danielle, and Frank Junior.
A recollection from Frank von Zerneck, Sr.:I picked her up at the hotel she and her family were staying in. It was on…
Aimee, who was renamed Kathleen Marie Wisler by her adoptive family, experienced a childhood full of love. Her adoptive mother tragically died when Kathy was just 6 years old, but a failed second marriage and a stint of poverty actually brought Kathy, her father, and her adoptive siblings much closer together.
When Kathy had children of her own, she began thinking of her birth mother. Miraculously, with the help of the Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia, Kathy was able to track down Julie and Frank. She sat on the information for 10 years before the time was right; then, she wrote them a heartfelt letter.
Today, April 2, 2013 is the release date of our book SECRET STORMS, a Mother and Daughter Lost and Found. It took us 44 years to write this book because first Kathy had to find me.
Julie phoned her daughter just two days after the letter was sent. Kathy was stunned. “I never imagined I would feel like a daughter again,” Kathy shared, adding her perspective to mom Julie’s story, “and yet here I am, cherished by two strong and thoughtful parents who worry when my kids are sick and who call for no reason.”
REVIEWED BY PUBLISHERS WEEKLY on 4/22/13:In this touching memoir, Julie is 19 when she is sent to a psychiatric…
Kathy arranged to meet her birth parents, and their connection was instant. “I feel as though we have never been apart,” Kathy said. Mother and daughter reconnected in such a meaningful way that they have even penned a memoir together, titled Secret Storms: A Mother and Daughter, Lost then Found.
Their incredible story was even covered by Discovery Life‘s Shocking Family Secrets series. As far as stories go, this one has everything, including, most importantly, a happy ending.
“It’s as if we have been dropped into the concluding chapter of a fairy tale,” Kathy shared, “and we all know how fairy tales go.”