WALNUT CREEK -- At 62, Kira Derhgawen still has the same bright eyes, now behind wire-rimmed glasses, she had in a picture Contra Costa Sheriff's deputies took of her only days after she was born in 1951.
Derhgawen -- then a newborn, now a resident of Ferndale, Wash. -- had been abandoned inside a car on Coventry Way in Concord. Police rushed the newborn to a hospital; when she was healthy enough, she was put into the foster care system before she was adopted two years later.
After years of searching, she is hopeful she can track down the mother who, at age 15, feigned sickness, stayed home from school and gave birth to her.
Derhgawen knows little about her birth parents' identities, but she says she knows that her birth mother loved her and that she would have kept her if she could.
She still cherishes a copy of a note that was mailed to Jan Hungerford, the woman who found Derhgawen on April 30, 1951.
"You know the baby you found in your car? Well, I just wanted you to know that the baby is not an unwanted and unloved infant," the letter reads. "I am the mother of the baby; and by the way her name isn't 'Jane Doe' it is 'Neldajean.'"
A neighbor told Hungerford that a cat was mewling inside the car, but no cat came out when Hungerford opened the front passenger door to investigate.
"The window was down 4 or 5 inches, to let air in, and the blue blanket (Derhgawen was wrapped in) was damp, but not soaked," Hungerford recalled. "When I pulled the top of the blanket back, two very calm eyes were staring at me."
Derhgawen only weighed 4 pounds, 12 ounces and still had her umbilical cord attached when she was found, according to an Oakland Tribune article published the day after her discovery.
Derhgawen said she grew up knowing she was adopted, but that she never felt the need to find her birth parents. But when she went off to college and people began asking her where she was from, she changed her mind.
At 21, when Derhgawen asked her mother about her birth parents, Derhgawen said she was actually relieved.
"All my life, I had been dreaming about finding babies, and when I would see something about it on the news, I would tell my mother that was our baby and we should bring it home," she said. "It all made so much sense."
She began her search for her birth parents, and after grueling research connected with Hungerford in 2009.
"The first thing she said to me was, 'Do you remember the baby you found in that car all those years ago? Well, I turned out OK.'" Hungerford said. "I just couldn't believe it. I never even told my own children about it until then."
Since then, Derhgawen has located newspaper clippings and a copy of the letter her mother mailed. She has heard stories of sheriff's deputies search for her birth parents, which included combing through handwritten essays by local high school students to try and match the writing in the note.
Though records of the investigation were never found, Derhgawen, now a mother herself, said she will keep searching.
She wonders where she got her height; she wonders what ethnicity she is."
"I'd also like to think I got my mother's personality ... the note shows she was such a tender heart," she said. "I have always had a 'pocket in my heart' for (her)."
Contact Katie Nelson at 925-945-4782 or follow her at Twitter.com/katienelson210.