Maria Heckinger

ICAV Blogger

I am one of 3,200 Greek orphans adopted to the U.S. between 1950 and 1962. I spent three years in the Patras orphanage before I arrived at my new home on July 1st, 1956, under the Refugee Relief Act (1953). Raised in San Diego, California, by Richard and Ellen Pace, I enjoyed a middle-class American childhood. Dad was a History professor and Mom worked as a secretary for a large mortgage company. As a youngster, I was 100% tomboy. Mom was so worried, she enrolled me in a class called, The Cultured Young Lady. I attacked every activity with energy and excitement. I was a good student, competed in gymnastics, and sang in every choir I could. I attended San Diego State for my undergraduate degree and Lewis and Clark College for a graduate degree in education. In 1981 I moved to Vancouver WA., where I quickly learned 100 new words for rain, and began a 31-year teaching career. It was in Vancouver WA where I also met my husband, Matthew.

In 1984 I traveled to Greece and found my birthmother and a half-sister in Patras. I also became acquainted with my large extended family. We spent the next 34 years gathering as a family as often as possible. I have chronicled the unlikely tale of my mother-and-child reunion in a recently published book: Beyond the Third Door: Based on a True Story (Vancouver, WA,2019)

I am enjoying retirement and getting my “kid-fix” as a substitute teacher. I feel thoroughly blessed in my search for my family and now assist other adoptees in finding theirs.