Local man’s search for birth parents becomes a race against time, cancer

Posted at 10:24 PM, May 16, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-16 22:32:29-04

CHESTER, Va (WTVR)- Kenny Malpass of Chester always knew he was adopted.

His father, Kenneth Malpass, says they didn't want him to hear it from someone else, so they told him as soon as he could understand.

It was a grand day when the 6-month-old boy came from Richmond Social Services to the family who had a daughter but wanted a son, too.

"They called about 2 o'clock and said they were on the way with him," Mr. Malpass recalled. "He's been with us ever since. He fit right in, always been part of the family."

Kenny, now 45, became an avid fisherman and a carpenter. He later moved to Florida and ran a bait shop.

Kenny's adoptive sister was killed 13 years ago. Their mom died nine months later from a broken heart.

Now Kenny's facing terminal lung cancer  that has spread to his spine and ribs.

He'll stay at home with his adoptive dad, the way his life began.

"July first, 2010. They told me I was eat up with cancer," Kenny said while at VCU Medical Center getting treatment. "At that time, the doctor . . . was telling me three to six months . . . life expectancy. I looked at him, 'Naw, that ain't happening.' That was 10 months ago."

He's been through 24 radiation treatments, and has had chemotherapy eight times. "It has a big effect on you," Kenny said, his eyes filling with tears, when asked how a terminal diagnosis affected him. "It changes your whole life."

His longtime search for his birth family has intensified. "The good Lord is going to take me away from this earth one of these days. And I would really love to find my biological family before I pass."

Kenny discovered his Richmond adoption file went missing at Social Services. All the state had was a brief summary.

"It listed my name as Joseph Todd Harper and listed my mother's name as Martha Harper," he said. "It said she was in her early 20s, something about my father was in his middle 20s, he had some military background."

He's not mad at his mom or dad. "Oh no. I feel, for whatever reason, she did it in my best interest. She did it out of love."

He figures she gave him up because she wasn't married  in an era when single moms were frowned  upon.

"It's always been a wonder, you know," Kenny said as he fished in a pond near his home, "where I come from, what were the circumstances, what'd she look like, am I Irish, German, Dutch?"

Does he have any brothers or sisters?

Is his mom still alive? She would still be in her 60s. (Kenny was born on Jan. 2, 1966.)

And what would he like to say to his mother if she hears of his search but doesn't want to contact him?

"I love you regardless," he replied, his eyes filling with tears.

Anyone with information can contact Kenny at