Bob and Dale: Paying It Forward

You are a woman. You work in a factory for pennies. You live in a shack with no electricity or running water. You are pregnant, but the father of your twins left you for his first wife after he found out you were expecting. And you are doing all of this in the hinterlands of southwest Vietnam.

You make an excruciating decision: give up your babies for adoption. The chances of seeing them again are nil, you have no idea who the prospective parents are personally, but you know you are making the best choice for their future that you had. Contacts are made, paperwork is done, the twins — boys — arrive, and then...done. The adoption goes through to a gay couple in the United States and, come what may, you get on with your life.

This situation, particularly in developing countries, is more common than you would think. More uncommon, in Bob and Dale's situation, however, was happened next.

“I always wanted to have kids, but thought it would never happen,” Bob Page says, echoing the sentiment of his husband, Dale Frederiksen.

When the two met, in 1988, it was a sentiment many same-sex couples had. For the Pages, just becoming a couple was daunting: Bob was in North Carolina, Dale in Tennessee, but both men were so deep in the closet they may as well have lived in Narnia. But even in the pre-cyberspace days, down-low LGBTQs had extensive networking tools.

“We met through a print ad,” says Bob. “Everybody gets a little chuckle out of that, but this was before the Internet. Then we phone-dated.”

In an enormous leap of faith, Dale left his teaching job and crossed state lines to be with the voice on the other end of the phone. They have been together ever since, marrying two years ago. When one of Bob’s co-workers became unexpectedly pregnant, there was talk of the two men adopting the child. That fell through — but the fire was lit.

“So we decided to try an adoption agency working with same-sex couples,” Bob says. “We found Cradle of Hope up in Washington, DC. They were doing adoptions through Vietnam.”

Bob admits having his heart set on twins, seeing the close bond his father and uncle, also twins, had. In 1999 came a call from a woman near the Cambodian border had put her twin boys up for adoption. What followed is reminiscent of an epic saga, replete with transglobal flights, reams of paperwork, a first visit to meet the twins Hien and Hau, a second visit to actually get them, language barriers, red tape, corrupt officials (“just slip them $20,” advises Dale), and the fact frontier Vietnam is practically lawless. Because the adoption was not automatically final, either Bob or Dale were required to stay inside the hotel room with the babies, and resorted to eating in shifts and bringing food back to the room. Throughout was the dread that something, anything, would go wrong. When the new family set foot on American soil, the relief was as palpable as the joy.

In fact, of all the things that did happen, the one thing that did not was a face-to-face with the mother, Huong. It was a nagging point that would eventually take on more and more weight. Finally, Bob and Dale decided to go back and personally thank the woman who made their lives complete. With then 9-year-old (and re-christened) Owen Hien and Ryan Hau in tow, the Page-Frederiksens made their way to the Vietnamese back country three hours outside Ho Chi Minh City. 

“She was living in a grass hut,” Bob recalls. “She had two daughters then, and was a single mother working in a factory earning about $70 a month.”

So they bought her some pots. And pans. And furniture. And a motorcycle to get around. And a fully-wired, fully-plumbed house to put it all in.

About now you might be thinking that even when taking into account the enormous gratitude adoptive parents feel for their birth mothers, Bob and Dale’s seems particularly munificent. And if you have never cracked a plate or shattered a glass, congratulations! But for the less dexterous and more accident-prone, Bob is the man you call---Or, rather, his company is.

An avid flea market shopper, Bob quit his auditor job in 1981 and used his finds to start an antique china and glassware mail-order business specializing in replacing the one-off damaged piece of a set. Everyone, the Small Business Administration included, declared the move a money-pit. Flash forward to 2017 and Replacements, LTD is a 400-employee, $80-million-a-year company with a 13-million-piece inventory going back to the 1800s. But to talk to Bob, the son of a tobacco farmer, is to talk to a man who knows the value, but also the impact, of a dollar. If you have the money to spend and know the good it will do, the purse-strings should be loosened at once. He saw a person who needed help, who deserved it, and so got it.

“Huong had sewing skills, so we bought her a sewing machine and she now makes clothing for her village,” Bob says, adding, “She sells mangoes from the trees on the property. She’s pretty self-sufficient, and we send her money every month to put her daughters in school.”

To top it off, they bought a home for Huong’s parents.

In fact, Bob and Dale’s giving nature seems to know no limit. In addition to now-18-year-old Ryan and Owen, also part of the family is 17-year-old Kennedy Nzekwe from Nigeria (sponsored, not adopted).

“He has an older brother who played on the same soccer team as our boys,” Bob explains. “And he was telling us how Kennedy really wanted to come to the US. So we decided to sponsor him. He’s in school with the boys.”

This boundless sense of giving is felt far beyond the family. Living in Greensboro, North Carolina, and among the most prominent business owners---gay or straight---Bob, 72, and Dale, 54, now out and proud, are in the spotlight far more than they could have predicted.

“We’ve been huge supporters of the HRC,” says Bob. “Several people said Equality North Carolina would not have survived had it not been for our support. We’re a big supporter of the local AIDS foundation and many others: adoption, urban ministries, Habitat for Humanity. And we are a major supporter of the Quaker school where our kids attend.”

Yet despite constant balancing of the public eye with their private lives, the Page-Frederiksens remain an everyday family.

“It’s been the greatest experience in my life, having kids,” Bob says. “I have never for one moment regretted it.”

And with any luck, a woman in a distant land feels the same.


Read More:

A Touching Letter From a Son to All Gay Dads

Life with a Newborn: Nick and Chris with Their Daughter Ari

Adoption of a Newborn: Gay Dads Brett and Jimmy

Show Comments ()
Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

How the Shut Down Opened Me Up to Being a Better Dad

David Blacker's dad used to tell him to 'stop and smell the roses' — the shut down has led him to finally take the advice

"Stop and smell the roses." It was the thing my dad always said to me when I was growing up. But like many know-it-all kids, I didn't listen. I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was getting good grades in school, getting my work published, scoring the next big promotion, buying a house or starting a family. For me, there was no such thing as resting on my laurels. It has always been about what's next and mapping out the exact course of action to get me there.

Then Covid.

Ten weeks ago, I — along with the rest of the world — was ordered to shelter-in-place... to stop thinking about what's next, and instead, focus on the here and the now. In many ways, the shut down made me shut off everything I thought I knew about being content and living a productive life. And so, for the first time in my 41 years, I have literally been forced to stop and smell the roses. The question is, would I like the way they smell?

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

How This Transracial Family Creates a 'Safe Space' to Talk About Their Differences

Kevin and David know they can never understand what it's like growing up as a young black girl — but they strive to create a 'safe space' for their daughters to talk about the experience

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at dads@gayswithkids.com

Is adopting a child whose race and culture is different from your own something that us queer dads need to talk about? Share our experiences? Learn from others? We've been hearing from our community, and the answer has been a resounding, "yes."

With over one-fifth (21.4%) of same-sex couples raising adopted children in the United States today (compared to 3% of different-sex couples), it's highly likely, at the very least, that those families are transcultural. According to April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive of The Donaldson Adoption Institute, Inc., all adoptive families are transcultural. "All, in my opinion, adoptions are transcultural because there are no two families' culture that is exactly the same, even if you went as far as to get very specific about the family of origin and the family of experience and almost make it cookie-cutter … no two families operate the same."

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Movie Night: My Favorite Family Tradition

As his sons have gotten older, the movies have morphed away from cartoons and towards things blowing up — but movie night remains his favorite family tradition.

Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about his life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

Of all of our traditions and rituals, probably the most consistent and longest-lasting one was movie night. Sure, we read the heck out of Harry Potter. But our capacity for watching Harry Potter? We're talking Quidditch World Cup here, folks.

In its early version, movie night looked like this: During the week, I would order a movie and a cartoon from Netflix—back when "Netflix" meant "mail." On Saturday night—and I mean, faithfully, every Saturday night—we would order a pepperoni pizza (which Mark faithfully took the meat off of—I'll get to food later) for delivery and then sit and watch our cartoon and movies while eating. The kids had a say in the movie, but I got to pick the cartoon. They watched enough of their own cartoons on the regular, and besides, this gave me a great opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Josie and the Pussycats.


Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Happy Mother's Day From Gays With Kids!

To all of the women who have supported the journey of gay, bi and trans men towards fatherhood — thank you, and happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day can be complicated holiday for many gay, bi and trans dads and their kids. Choosing how, when — or even if — to celebrate the day is a uniquely personal decision. But no matter how we've become dads, women have helped us achieve our dreams of fatherhood. And for that reason, we've loved celebrating all of the women who have supported our journeys to fatherhood, in ways big and small, over the years. Check out some of our favorite photos, essays, articles and more below!


Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse