TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — Like the secret recipe he guards at Ike's Chili, Len Wade has long lived with the mystery of his own ingredients.
"I've always known that I was adopted," he said.
For the mother and father who chose him at just a week old, he has nothing but kind words.
"They were the best parents you could ever have," he said.
Like many adoptees, he struggled with whether or not to search for his birth parents.
"I was never looking to replace my mom and dad, that's not what it was about, it was needing to know where I came from," he said.
Figuring that out would take a decade and came about in a most unusual way.
"My wife threw a 50-year birthday party for me," he said.
At the party, she had him hold up a sign, then posted it on Facebook.
"Something about a mom," smiled Susan Olzawski Barrett.
She was one of the thousands of people who saw that picture, but the one person who could actually do something about it.
"She made all that happen within what seemed like seconds that had taken me 10 years to get to that point," said Wade.
She's a member of a group called Search Squad and has helped hundreds of people find their birth parents for free.
"That's why we're called Search Angels is because we don't charge," she said.
Barrett knows which judges are sympathetic to helping get records unsealed.
"Everything that's being done is legal, but you just have to know who is cooperative and who is not cooperative," she said.
And so, at the age of 50 years old, Wade saw his original birth certificate for the first time, and there in the place of his name was Barnes Baby Boy.
"This is where it all started right here," he said.
It was in Cleveland, Okla. where a teenager named Nancy found herself pregnant and with few options put her baby up for adoption. She died in 2009. It was a loss that would be tempered though by the gain of new family members.
"Hello Aunt Margaret! I've been looking for you for so long," said Wade.
Inside her home, next to a memory lane sign...
"Oh, look at you," she smiled.
She watched her nephew grow up through photographs.
"Tell you what, you put my brother beside you and you look alike," she said.
The family discoveries would continue, with a trip to Seattle to visit his new siblings.
"I always wanted a sister and now I have one, now I have a brother too," he said.
It was from them that he learned that every April, Nancy would always remember her first born.
"And ever year on my birthday they would kind of make it a special day and my mother would talk about me," he said.
It was on Mother's Day that a picture was taken with Wade holding her photo in one arm and her ashes in the other.
"Wished I could have met her," he told his Aunt Margaret.
The experience has been transformative.
"It changed my entire life. My wife says I'm not the same person - in a good way," he smiled.
And the journey is only half way complete.
"It's still a mystery as to who my father is," he said.
If you're looking for your birth parents and would like help from the Search Squad, you can email Susan at email@example.com.