Baby switch: How a Mormon family dealt with the fallout of a decades old secret

LOGAN — A single line from the three-page typewritten letter leaped out at Maxine Fisher in July 2009. She read the words from a stranger over and over, stunned and numb with disbelief: “I have reason to believe you are my mother.”

The author of the letter, Gene Williams, wrote that there had been a mix-up in the Preston, Idaho, hospital 65 years earlier, and Maxine and another woman’s babies had been switched.

Gene Williams’ letter to Maxine Fisher claimed there had been a mixup in 1944 at the Preston Hospital and that Gene, on the left, had been switched with Rod Fisher, on the right.| Provided by Fisher family

Maxine, now 98, still lives at home by herself on a quiet street in this northern Utah community. She is lively, sharp and fiercely independent. Although skeptical of his claim that he could be her son, she said Gene’s letter still shook her to the core.

“It was so ridiculous, I just couldn’t believe it,” Maxine said. “Preston is a small town, and everybody knows everybody. I knew all the nurses by their first names, and I didn’t think the nurses had switched my baby.”

She worried at first it might be a scam but still replied in careful penmanship on a single page.

Maxine Fisher, 98, at her home on Aug. 7, 2017, in Logan, Utah| Parker Atkinson, Deseret News

“I wish the shock of it had put me in my grave,” she wrote back to Gene. “I’m crying, I’m shaking, walking around in a daze. I’m sick to my stomach, my mind’s boggled. I can’t face it but I can’t disregard it.”

Maxine said her main concern was for her son, Rod. She’d raised him and been his mother for 65 years. If what this stranger Gene claimed in his letter was true, she didn’t want to think about the impact on the tight-knit Fisher family.

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With powerful online search engines enabling anyone with an internet connection to access countless databases and historical records, stories about adoptees finding their biological parents and others accidentally discovering long-lost relatives have become commonplace. The affordability and ease…

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