FAMILY meetings don’t get much more special than Mary Bearpark’s, after she won a competition held by The News with airline company KLM.
Mary, from Waterlooville, asked to meet her half-sister, Diane Whitcombe, for the first time by flying her up from her home in Melbourne, Australia.
Mary, 56, said: ‘I’m a bit shocked. When I spotted the competition I thought it would be the most amazing thing to win as it’s probably the only chance I’ve got of meeting Diane for many years.’
Mary, an attendance manager at Cowplain Community School, made contact with her birth father, Terry Batchelor in 2009, and first met him on a visit to the Gold Coast.
‘After making contact with Terry, he told me I had a sister and at the end of our visit he handed me a scrap of paper with an address on it and it turned to be that of Diane,’ Mary said.
Mary and Diane, 49, immediately began exchanging letters and Skype calls, but their looming reunion at Southampton Airport will be the first ever face-to-face experience with one another.
Mary said: ‘My partner and I are getting married next year and with all the saving up for that, and the fact that Diane has got a younger family, we knew it would be years before we could actually meet in person.
‘That’s why I’m so excited and when I told Diane she was thrilled. It’s so amazing that I’m going to meet my sister.’
Mark Waldron, editor of The News, said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for her to be reunited with her loved and we look forward to the moment Mary is reunited with her sister as Diane steps off her KLM flight at Southampton Airport.’
Warner Rootliep, general manager of Air France KLM UK and Ireland added: ‘We were delighted to celebrate the launch of KLM’s new service from Southampton Airport to the world, by teaming up with The News to make Mary’s wish to be reunited with her family come true.’