By SUSAN TOBIAS
It's been about six years since twins Peter and Thomas Giove found out they had family in northern New York.
At a recent reunion at the Rec Park in Malone, they and newly discovered relatives celebrated finding each other.
The twins, now 61, were placed in foster care on Long Island from the age of 2 to 12 years old.
At that point, they were taken in by their paternal Giove family.
Most of their family contact was with their father. For whatever reason, he told the twins at a young age that their mother had died.
Then, as adults, he told them she was probably still alive.
It took some sorting out for them to know how to feel about their parents.
"I've came to not hold it against my mother that we were placed in care," said Thomas of Paradise, Pa.
"She had her first child at a young age, and by the time she was 17, she had four children and lived under difficult circumstances."
The twins grew up on Long Island and graduated from high school.
Peter joined the Army at 18 and served with the 173rd Airborne in Vietnam.
Tommy worked at the New York Stock Exchange and attended Brooklyn College. He was drafted and served with the 10th Special Forces Unit, Green Berets, and was sent to Korea, due to military guidelines that said only one brother could be in Vietnam at a time.
Twins are said to have a special connection, no matter where they are, and the brothers experienced the pull of their kinship.
"We never met up during our military time," said Tommy, "but one day I had a strange feeling that I wanted to talk to Peter. I contacted the Army officials, and they found he had been hurt and was in the hospital. I just had a feeling."
In adulthood, they dated twin sisters. Eventually, Tommy married at 23 and Peter at 24. Both experienced divorce but agree they have remarried "wonderful wives."
Tommy has three sons and five grandsons. Peter has three sons and one grandson.
Tommy's career is in nuclear medicine. Peter is a music teacher and composer. Both love music and have been high-school music directors.
LOOKING FOR MOM
Their search for their maternal birth family began when Peter came home from Vietnam and went to see Tommy, who was in the hospital.
They were about 30 and talked about wanting to find the rest of their family.
After they advertised in a Syracuse newspaper, their maternal grandmother contacted them with the news that their mother was, indeed, still alive.
When Peter and Tommy finally met their birth mother, she told them, "You are born of the people."
"I didn't know what she was talking about," said Peter, who now lives in Washington, N.H., "but found out it meant we had Native American blood. I always thought we were full-bloodied Italian, with a name like Giove. We had always spoken Italian. English was our second language."
Peter was taken by the thought that he had Native American blood through their mother's lineage and has progressed steadily in the Mohawk clan hierarchy to serving as a board director with the American Indian Movement, among other distinctions.
HELP FROM HERE
Enter Betty Cox of North Bangor. An admitted diehard genealogist, she was on an Internet inquiry site one day when she noticed a posting that said, "Please help me. I don't know who I am."
Somebody was looking for their grandmother, Victoria Isabelle Rivers. The writer said her mother was Imogene Rivers.
"The Rivers name instantly took my attention," Betty said. "I had been conducting a search for the twins for 51 years because my mother used to cry when she talked about them."
To understand the connections: Betty's mother was Annabell Burgette of Malone. Annabell's sister was Victoria Isabelle Burgette, who married Peter Rivers. Betty's mother said her sister had always gone by the name Isabelle, instead of Victoria. The twins' mother was Emogene Rivers, daughter of Isabelle and Pete Rivers.
Betty knew she had some answers and called the writer, who turned out to be a woman named Kathy.
"I said, 'Hi, cuz,' and it was wonderful," Betty said. "I told her 'Your grandmother and my mother were sisters.' I learned that Kathy had been raised by her father's sister as her own child."
The women talked about family ties, and Kathy told Betty what she knew about her cousins, Peter and Tommy.
Betty called the twins. When Tommy answered, Betty said, "Hi, cuz."
Tommy said, "Who is this?"
Another surprise was yet to come for Kathy, though. On applying for a driver's license, she had to get her birth certificate. Imagine her surprise when she discovered that she was adopted and that Peter and Tommy's birth mother was also her birth mother.
"She called us and told us the news," Tommy said. "I couldn't believe it. She was our sister. She and I used to be roller-skating partners and never knew our relationship."
The twins had many good years with Kathy before she died a couple of years ago of ALS.
"She's here (at the reunion) with us in spirit," Peter said. "I can feel it."
Betty asked Peter and Tommy what she could do for them to help advance their family ties. They said they'd like to have a family reunion in the Malone area and meet more relatives.
"We grew up without our family around," Tommy said. "We know family is important."
More than 50 Rivers family members came from near and far. Food, photo albums, music and new family generated warmth and love under the pavilion, in spite of the rain.
"I'm happy for them," Betty said. "If anybody deserves today, the twins and their families do. It's been a long time coming.
"I know they are my cousins, but they are my brothers in my heart," she added.
Asked to give advice to others who were either placed in foster care or adopted, Tommy said, "We had a hard life, but we picked ourselves up and got on with it. There's no excuse for going wrong. If we could do it, so can others."
E-mail Susan Tobias at: email@example.com