Date: 1999-02-18

Columbian, The (Vancouver, WA)

CRESWELL, Ore. (AP) Bertha Holt missed her morning run for a few days last week. It was hard to stay with her routine with all the hoopla surrounding her 95th birthday.

Several hundred people showed up Saturday to honor Holt, who, with her husband, founded the nation's oldest and largest international adoption agency more than 40 years ago. It has placed about 50,000 children in homes over the past 30 years.

Daughter Molly, who runs an orphanage in South Korea, was there as was Song Jae-Chun, who heads the agency's South Korean arm.

And there were dozens of kids, and parents eager to share with Holt what her work has meant to them.

Steve Stirling, 43, took time off from his job as vice president of a division of food giant Con Agra to tell his story.

Abandoned as a young child with polio, he wasn't easy to place. He was 12 before the agency found him a family. He came Saturday with his family.

"I just wanted to share with people what God can do," he said.

Small, pink-cheeked and smiling, Holt wore a han bok, the traditional garb of Korean women.

She still lives in Creswell and stays active with the agency, traveling where she is needed to promote adoption efforts and to raise funds.

Usually, she gets up at 4:45 a.m., reads the Bible then goes on her morning run.

Holt got involved in 1955 when she and her husband Harry, already the parents of six, saw a documentary about the plight of Amerasian children in Korea abandoned after the war there.

Months later, the Creswell couple adopted eight orphans. The attending publicity prompted others to ask them for help in adopting orphans.

In 1956 they formed the Holt Adoption Program, which later became Holt International Children's Services.


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