Date: 1993-07-08

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: By Patricia Corrigan Of the Post-Dispatch Staff

Arthur Alexander Henn, 19 months old, sporting a Cardinals baseball hat and waving an American flag, grabbed at a cluster of blue balloons and gurgled delightedly.

"Alex, you are now an American," cooed his mother, Brenda Henn.

Then she turned to her husband, Art Henn, and asked, "Can we keep him?"

His big smile was answer enough.

Brenda Henn arrived at Lambert Field on Wednesday afternoon carrying Alex, a Romanian orphan who is now officially a member of the Henn family.

The Henns had expected Alex eight months ago, when his adoption was first confirmed by an orphanage in Szeged, Hungary.

"I've been so excited for so long, the novelty has almost worn off," said Jean Merry, Brenda Henn's mother, as she waited at the gate with 40 other friends and well-wishers. "We had no Alex at Thanksgiving, no Alex at Christmas, no Alex on his birthday. But it looks like he's finally coming."

The Henn family lives in an unincorporated area of west St. Louis County. Art Henn provides technical support for sales staff at Monsanto. Brenda Henn is a speech therapist who now sells fund-raising programs to schools. They have two other children, Ryan, 13, and Laura, 10.

Laura, a fifth-grader at McKelvey Elementary School, carried a big white teddy bear and a sign she made that read, "Welcome Home, Mom and Alex."

She proudly displayed a shirt she wore just for the occasion. The front read, "I'm the Big Sister."

"Life's going to be a lot more fun with another little kid running around," said Ryan, who attends Parkway East Junior High School. "I hear he's a real live wire. I'll have to keep my bedroom door shut from now on."

The little boy is the first to be released of a group of 28 Romanian children adopted by 24 American couples. The families made the arrangements through an adoption agency last fall, paying fees as high as $18,000 each. The children's release was delayed because of a disagreement between Romania and Hungary. The two nations settled their disagreement Friday.

"After all the kids are home, we'll probably have more to say about this," Art Henn said just before his wife and child arrived. "We don't really know all the circumstances, but it appears that certain people didn't want this to happen."

Brenda Henn, who has spent almost four weeks at the orphanage in Szeged, said that she and Alex had been en route to St. Louis for about 32 hours. She was exhausted, she said, and eager for a soft drink filled with ice.

"There is no ice in Hungary. They drink everything without ice, at room temperature," she said. "When I started to like it that way, I got really worried."

Six of the 24 couples adopting Romanian children live in the metropolitan area.

"That's nice, because we have our own support group," said Mark Oldenburg, who was at the airport to greet Alex. Oldenburg, an automation specialist who lives in Grover, will be back today to welcome his wife, Jayne Oldenburg, and their new son, Evan, 7 months.

When all eyes were on Art Henn, whose arms were wrapped around his new son, someone called out to Oldenburg, "Well, Mark, what do you think?"

"I think it's pretty cool," he replied, grinning broadly.

Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./Post-Dispatch - Brenda Henn of West County handing her new son Alex an American flag Wednesday as he arrived at Lambert Field. "Alex, you are now an American," she said. Art Henn, the boy's father, holds him. The Henns adopted the Romanian child last October.


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