Reaching Beyond The Secrets

by Nancy Celia Stocker Virkler

Kathy and Jonathan were born in 1949 and 1970, respectively, into societies full of possibilities and opportunities. Swirling around them were secrets, personal and institutional. They negotiated life using grit, determination, and survival techniques. Their story is not unique. It is a reflection of society’s attitude toward unwed mothers and adoptees.

November 13, 2017, was a cloudy, chilly day. The temperature hovered near forty-five degrees. Included in the household mail was a piece of mail from Dauphin County, one innocuous envelope whose contents would change lives…

Reaching Beyond The Secrets takes the reader through their intertwined journeys. It exposes the raw emotions both experience as institutional secrets are released from an impenetrable vault. The potential to change them both forever is suddenly within reach.

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It’s a love story…

It’s a love story, not your typical love story, but a love story it is! Wonderfully written, an easy read.


I couldn’t put it down – probably read it in 2 sittings!

This book is just great – I finished it yesterday, and  I thoroughly enjoyed the read.  You captured so many emotions that helped add to your story, and I loved how you interwove these emotions with the actual events that were responsible for what happened.

I couldn’t put it down – probably read it in 2 sittings!


I feel I know the family members and something a bit about how they felt and felt as the story progressed.

A great big thank you for writing your book Reaching Beyond The Secrets.  The story was great.  At points, I choked up.  I feel I know the family members and something a bit about how they feel and felt as the story progressed.  Not an easy topic to write about.  Thank you.


Congratulations, Nancy!

I was so flattered last March when Nancy Virkler asked me if I’d read a memoir she was working on. But also nervous-what if I thought it was terrible? Could I be honest? Nancy said, “don’t worry, I’m tough” and so I became an official reader. I could honestly tell her there was definite merit to her venture and here she is, 9 months later, presenting me with a copy of her book, “Reaching Beyond the Secrets”. I’ve gone from flattered to honored. Congratulations Nancy!

Christine McManus Witkowski

So thought provoking in so many ways.

I started the book last night and finished it today. It was excellent! I cried a lot! It was so thought provoking in so many ways.


My heart broke in some chapters but then again was bursting with happiness in others.

I’m not a huge reader, but I couldn’t put the book down. From the second I picked it up, I was hooked. I cried tears of sadness and tears of overwhelming joy. My heart broke in some chapters but then again was bursting with happiness in others.


This is a book that should be read in a Social Norms class, regarding our society over the last 40 plus years.

It’s not often a book comes along that I can’t put down. A friend of mine wrote one during the pandemic. She reflected back to a time in her life when she had to make an unselfish choice for her child. This was a secret then and 40 plus years later. Her son found his Mom, about 4 years ago when adoption papers were made available in PA. I was literally in tears reading the last chapters.

“Reaching Beyond The Secrets” by Nancy Virkler. 326 pages read in less than 24 hours. Nancy I commend you for your strength.

This is a book that should be read in a Social Norms class, regarding our society over the last 40 plus years.

Paula Carpenter

About The Author

Nancy Celia Stocker Virkler is a retired banker living in upstate New York. She enjoys volunteer work, crafts, travel, and family time. This is her first venture into the world of publishing.


By Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, Rep. Kerry A. Benninghoff

Are You My Mother? These four words are the title of a classic children’s book written in 1960 by P.D. Eastman. They also make up the yearning question of many adoptees as they walk down the road, ride a public bus, or gaze around in a crowd. Join author Nancy Virkler on her life’s journey and that of her son as he searches for the answer to those four very words. Their intertwined journeys are described in her book, Reaching Beyond the Secrets.

Nancy allows you to walk alongside her as the veil of her secret as an unwed mother is lifted by a simple legislative bill achieved through an arduous seven-year process. She shares with her readers a complicated, long, and exhaustive process for many Pennsylvania adoptees, including her son, to obtain basic information about themselves. Data that all others can get for a small application fee of $20.

Her book shines a light into a dark world cloaked in shame, secrecy, and even politics that adoptees and birth parents faced. A world that prohibited many Americans from the fundamental desire to answer: “From where did I come?”

A copy of "Are You My Mother," a gift from the author's sister, remains on her bedside table as it has since the day her son found her again...

For years courts and other government officials decided who could and who could not have access to a copy of their own original birth certificate.

Reaching Beyond the Secrets describes the sometimes exhausting, fruitless efforts many adoptees faced and how answering that four-word question became the key that gave the author an adult son, daughter-in-law, and a second life as both grandmother and now author.

This book allows the reader to experience the author’s incredible journey, one she never planned to take and most would not think about. Emotional, exciting, scary, and full of love – a journey we call life.

Nancy and I first met on her son’s 48th birthday when they both came to the Pennsylvania State Capitol to meet those who made it possible for her to hear the words mother, mom, and grandma! My staff and I were mesmerized sitting in our small office listening to them tell of their first meeting, Nancy describing first seeing his face, and just knowing in her heart that he is her son!

No number of years or miles, or even residency in different states, can sever the biological thread of a mother’s love for her child.

Every family has its story. Some traditional, some not, some a patchwork, none perfect, most unique – this is Nancy and Marcus’s story, and I am honored to be a small part of it.