Family visits Morristown ICF to learn about deceased family member
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 9:10 am

Jackie Abdalla’s sister Patty Sanders visited with staff at the Morristown ICF in order to learn more about who her sister was and the quality care she received. Shown is Sanders, left, and Maggie Pike, an assistant program manager at ICF 1.

MORRISTOWN -- Jackie Abdalla lived with United Helpers in the Morristown ICF from 1998 until her death in April at the age of 71.

Her passing was turned into a celebration and a reunion of sorts, when her family was able to find out where she had been since the 1940s, the last time they had seen her.

When Abdalla's obituary first popped up in a Google search last month, her sister Patty Sanders, who lives in Wisconsin, said the family was initially heartbroken. They had been searching for their sister, without any luck, for decades.

Abdalla was initially separated from her family in the 1940s when, after years of effort, her parents were forced to make her a ward of the state due to her numerous seizures, which they were inadequately equipped to deal with. Abdalla was 8 years old at the time.

From that time on, she moved through a number of facilities and her parents lost track of her and assumed she had died. Sanders said her mother would call Abdalla her little angel.

So when news came that Abdalla had been living in upstate New York all that time, the family was just thankful to know she was cared for. Sanders said although she's sad to have missed out on a chance to get to know her older sister, she was put at ease after speaking with United Helpers staff and finding out they made all the same decisions regarding her care that she would have.

On May 23, Sanders visited with staff at the Morristown ICF where she learned about the kind of person her sister was. Sanders said, "today is the best day of my life," when she was able to walk into the living room where her sister spent much of her time and sit in her chair.

Sanders was sent back to Wisconsin with dozens of pictures of her sister and a DVD that included interviews with United Helpers staff members who interacted with Abdalla over the years.