- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

DANVERS, Mass. (AP) - Out of the ashes of an apartment fire, an uncertain future of homelessness on the horizon- as well as his disability from kidney failure -Kristoffer Scola-Haynes finally found his biological family, four decades after they were separated.

You see, Kris Scola, as he has been called since he was in the Navy, was adopted as an infant.

Growing up, he was told he had been abandoned.

His search for his mother, father and sister proved fruitless. He had a few clues, though. He knew he had a father whose last name was “Ambrose,” a mother named Christine Scola, and a sister named Denah Scola. He was named after his mother.

Just before Christmas, the 1990 Danvers High graduate lost everything when his Lynn apartment was destroyed in a fire.

A television news report in which he was interviewed, however, unbeknownst to him, opened a door to finding his biological family.

Scola, 44, still maintains ties to Danvers through close friends. His adopted mother, Jean Haynes, 83, lives in Dorchester. His adopted father, Walter Haynes, died in the late 1990s.

In February, after a period of illness, Scola was diagnosed with end stage kidney disease; he needs a kidney transplant.

A chef by profession, he has become too fatigued to work as a restaurant consultant.

“Right before Christmas, I’m just feeling, I think, personally the worst I have felt. Really alone, distant from a lot of people,” Scola said.

He was, however, looking forward to spending Christmas with his 8-year-old daughter Madison.

In February, Scola had moved to Lynn to be closer to friends, family and his girlfriend, Michelle Panos of Peabody.

On the morning of Dec. 21, fire destroyed the triple decker where Scola was living at 259 Chestnut St.

The evening before the fire, Scola was wrapping presents for his daughter (friends and family had actually donated the gifts because he wasn’t working). He smelled burning plastic.

He looked out to the front and back porches, but couldn’t see anything.

Scola went to bed around 1 a.m., but his eyes started burning. He saw a haze in his bedroom, and knew something was wrong. Out in the hallway, he could see white smoke billowing from the floorboards.

Drawing on his service in Afghanistan on a search and rescue crew, he went through the building and woke everyone up. In all, nine people got out safely, but were left homeless.

“I lost everything,” Scola said. “I can’t go back up in there.”

Scola’s daughter was safe- she was staying with her mother on the South Shore -but the thought of losing Christmas for her was unbearable. Over the next day, he said, an abundance of donations poured in from friends and family.

He also recalled giving an interview to a Fox 25 reporter about the fire.

“I just told her what happened, you know,” Scola said.

Nearly two weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, Scola was with his daughter at an IHOP restaurant in Brockton when his phone started to buzz.

“I was getting all these messages from my cousins, my biological cousins,” Scola said.

That’s because, unbeknownst to him, his first cousins on his biological mother’s side, who share the last name Scola and live in Rhode Island, saw Kris Scola on the news.

Only he was identified as “Chris Scola” on TV, said first cousin Marissa Scola. She said her sister noticed a resemblance to their late father, Anthony Scola, who had a sister named Christine Scola. Christine had died in the mid-1990s.

They were initially unsuccessful tracking down the name from TV on social media.

But a few days later, Marissa’s sister, Giana Scola, had a friend who knew a medium, and this medium mentioned the name “Deana,” a misspelling of Marissa’s first cousin named Denah, who died in an accident in 1996. Denah and Kris were siblings, but at the time, Marissa never knew Denah Scola had a little brother.

Marissa looked up Denah’s obituary on Ancestry.com, and a picture of Kristoffer Scola came up. He looked like the same person from the news.

She said she spoke to family members to learn more.

Last Saturday, Kris Scola got a call from Marissa Scola, telling him they were cousins.

She asked if Kris had a sister named “Denah” and was their mother named “Christine.”

“She said that, basically, ‘We saw you on the news and my sister and I were immediately drawn to you, and we said that you have our father’s eyes,’” Kris Scola recalled.

The cousins met later on that day.

Kris Scola had heard stories growing up, and he always felt the tug to know more.

His adopted mother told him his birth mother would visit him with his biological sister, Denah, when he was very young. She was about three years older.

He has a vague memory of a woman giving him a Tonka truck while living with the Haynes in Roxbury.

Scola came to Danvers and first attended seventh grade at the old Dunn Middle School, after the Hayneses lived in Louisiana from 1979 to 1985.

When he was 18, he got a hold of his adoption records and his original birth certificate, which had his father’s last name on it, “Ambrose.” He knew his father was a musician.

His adopted mother gave him some good advice growing up: “If you do meet her, don’t judge her, try to keep an open mind.” Scola said he lives by this motto.

He never got to meet his biological sister.

A few years ago, on Ancestry.com, Scola tracked down Denah’s death certificate. She and her 3-year-old daughter died the same day in a head-on collision with a dump truck in Galveston, Texas, after she had dropped off her fiance where he was working at a construction site. Scola found the fiance on Facebook, and he confirmed for Scola that he did indeed look like Denah Scola.

Marissa Scola said she learned from an aunt that Kris Scola’s late father was named Sammy Otis Ambrose. He turned out to be a semi-famous soul singer in the 1960s who, according to online reports, recorded the original version of the hit, “This Diamond Ring.”

Scola said his search for answers about his family is still ongoing, and the hopeless feeling he felt before Christmas has turned around.

“I probably have never in my life been so happy internally with what is going on than I am right now,” he said.

Marissa Scola said she’s glad Kris has been able to find his family. His cousins have pictures of his late mother and sister. It may help him with his family medical history, and perhaps even lead to a match for a kidney, some day. Marissa and her three sisters share the same blood type as Kris.

“I hope that out of this we can help,” Marissa said.


Information from: The Salem (Mass.) News, https://www.salemnews.com

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