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April 19, 2014

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Sisters’ mystery solved by ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

The television show "Unsolved Mysteries" inadvertently solved a mystery it didn't know existed -- one that bothered a 67-year-old Las Vegas resident most of her life.

Annabelle Harned Stanford, whose late mother, Bebe Harned, started Bebe's Embroidery here 50 years ago, knew from an early age she had an older half-sister but didn't know how to find her.

On the other hand Madeline Hared Rogers, 71, of San Antonio, had no idea she had a sister until recently.

It was Rogers who accidentally stumbled across the mystery of the missing sibling while watching "Unsolved Mysteries."

Stanford and Rogers will meet face-to-face for the first time at 3:20 p.m. Thursday at McCarran International Airport.

Since speaking to each other for the first time on Feb. 3 the sisters, who grew up without siblings, have talked by phone three or four times each week.

"It makes me very happy," said Stanford, whose husband, Jerry, is the son of the late Harvey Stanford, famed coach at Las Vegas High School for 30 years. "Finding her has filled in a piece of my life."

Rogers was equally elated.

"When I first learned I had a sister I was stunned, to say the least," she said in a telephone interview. "As a kid I thought how nice it would be if I had one."

For Rogers, who grew up on a ranch in central Texas, the unraveling of the mystery that gnawed at Stanford for more than 60 years began about three years ago when she was watching "Unsolved Mysteries" at the home she and her husband Charles have lived in for most of the past 40 years or so.

"There was a fellow who was a detective in Los Angeles who was working on a particular story and the detective had the same last name as my father -- Harned," Rogers. said

Harned, a French name, is not very common. Out of curiosity Rogers contacted the television show after seeing the name flashed on the screen and was told how to get in touch with the detective who had appeared on the program.

"He said he was not part of my branch of Harneds," Rogers said. "But he gave me the name of a researcher he knew and between them they gave me a lot of information about my family."

The information did not include the fact she had a sister.

"I didn't know my father's family at all," she said.

Rogers continued researching her family tree and eventually found a cousin, Robert Harned, in New York City who put her in touch with another cousin, Susan Worthington, of Lexington, Mo.

Worthington had in her possession a letter to her mother from Annabelle Stanford of Las Vegas, written in 1964.

The letter revealed the existence of the previously unknown sister.

"The news came in a bang," Rogers said.

She tried to locate the Stanfords but they had an unlisted telephone number and the address on the letter was invalid.

She told her cousin, Robert Harned, about her dilemma and he called directory assistance in Las Vegas.

By a strange coincidence the Stanfords had only recently decided to start listing their number in the phone directory, and Robert Harned was able to get the number.

The next morning, Rogers called Stanford and the mystery was solved.

Dwight Harned, an orchestra leader, married Rogers' mother during the Depression and the couple had a daughter before divorcing.

He then married Stanford's mother and they had a daughter before divorcing.

Dwight Harned died soon after without remarrying.

Rogers' mother didn't talk to her about the Harned family, but Stanford's did.

Stanford and her mother eventually ended up in Southern California and then Las Vegas, where she married the son of the coach whose 1944 high school football team is believed by many to have been the best in football history.

Jerry Stanford taught history in the Clark County School District for 18 years before resigning to help run Bebe's Embroidery.

Rogers has spent her entire life in Texas, on a ranch until she was about 12 and her mother remarried, and then in a number of towns until she married and settled down in San Antonio.

Though they have been separated all their lives, the sisters say their lives have followed similar paths.

Each married about the same time and had a daughter about the same time and divorced about the same time and remarried about the same time and then each had a son.

Rogers taught piano for many years and held a variety of other jobs, including a seamstress.

Stanford was a professional model for about three years before marrying her present husband and going to work at her mother's embroidery business.

"I went through life substituting for the sister I never knew," Stanford said.

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