He’s the most recognizable figure in British history, working side by side with President Franklin Roosevelt to lead the allies to victory in World War II. Now a Sand Springs woman says she is Winston Churchill’s illegitimate granddaughter.
The story began back in 1955 at the Tinker Air Force Base Officers Club. Noonan’s biological mother, Irene Gafford, was known to socialize at the club. And it’s believed that Randolph Churchill visited the club while he was in Oklahoma City as a journalist, covering the campaigns leading up to the presidential primary. That’s when Noonan says her life, and a 54-year journey to figure out who she is began.
Noonan says her adoption process was anything but normal, highlighted by FBI agents interviewing relatives and friends of Noonan’s soon-to-be parents. She says she had a great childhood, but in her twenties began a quest to find out who she is.
“It was a matter of relationships and piecing together names and relationships,” Noonan said.
She went through years of research, mounds of paperwork, and the occasional legal battle. It was a struggle even to get her birth certificate released by the State of Oklahoma.
After 20 years she finally found her birth mom, Irene Gafford. But Gafford was unwilling to give up much information.
Eventually Noonan tracked down the former assistant to Lloyd Rader, who was head of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, which oversees adoptions, when Noonan was born. Rader’s assistant, Polly, told Noonan of a meeting.
“A specific meeting with Lloyd Rader and Randolph Churchill,” Noonan said. “She said when she came in he tipped his hat and spoke to her and put his hat on the table and proceeded to sign something… some papers.”
Those papers are now gone, but the feelings of fear Polly felt remained until her death a few years ago.
“I don’t know what happened. I can’t tell you what was said to her. I can’t tell you what was said to my birth mother. What I can tell you is that both of them were seriously traumatized.”
Noonan says Polly was hesitant to talk to her at first, acting afraid of who might be listening and who could get hurt if she said too much. Eventually, she signed a sworn statement confirming what she told Noonan about the meeting with Churchill.
That was the proof Noonan had been looking for.
“It’s a matter of identity. It’s a matter of understanding and learning and putting things to rest.”
What appears to be a cover-up for a high-profile, womanizing figure has remained intact for 54 years, but Rhonda Noonan says she now knows exactly who she is.
“I know that my story is wild. I know that. it is what it is. My favorite saying of my grandfather’s is the truth is incontrovertible. And that’s what I’m looking for.”
Over the past few years Noonan says she has made numerous attempts to contact members of the Churchill family, including her would-be half brother Winston, but to no avail. Now she says she’s just hoping somebody in the Churchill family will eventually submit to a DNA test that will prove once and for all that she is, in fact, part of the Churchill family.
Noonan says she has no interest in seeking fame or fortune from the family connection. She says it’s only about confirming who she is and where she came from.
Unfortunately, the only person who could tell her for sure who her father was, her birth mom, Irene Gafford, passed away on 12/10/10. Now the only way she will ever be able to prove anything is if one day one of the Churchills agrees to the DNA test.
Reported by: Ian Silver 12-15-10
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