Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell had always wondered what her father was like. Not the man who raised her and her brothers, but her biological father.
The former mayor of Mayfield grew up thinking he had died, which is what her mother had told her. In reality, though, her true father, Frank Rochetti, was alive. Years later, Rochetti-Cantrell would be reunited with her “Daddy Frank.”
Now, her wondering and eventually discovering her biological father is chronicled in a book Rochetti-Cantrell has penned, titled “Finding Frank.”
Frank Rochetti had visited Mayfield in the early 1960s to help with the construction of the General Tire plant. When Rochetti-Cantrell was growing up, her mother, Linda Lamb, had told her the truth and that the man raising her, Hassell Lamb, was not her real father.
“She told me when I was young and when I wanted to look for him that he had died in a car wreck,” she said. But Linda Lamb, then in her 80s, made a comment that tossed Rochetti-Cantrell’s life on end and opened the door to a new story.
“She wondered if he ever thought about me,” she recalled her mother saying. “ ‘What do you mean, “If he ever thought about me?” He’s dead, Mom!’ But anytime she’d get me alone as an adult, she’d talk about Frank Rochetti and I’d get mad. I loved my daddy that raised me, but every time she got me alone as she got older, she wanted to talk about him.
“It was enough of a doubt in my mind.”
In 2012, Rochetti-Cantrell found Frank Rochetti’s name on the internet and started the process of reaching out to him, even if to possibly connect with half-brothers or sisters. She began blogging about her search and after finally meeting Rochetti, who at the time was living in Florida, she was told his side of the story.
Rochetti-Cantrell said the book doesn’t exactly mirror her early blog entries, but does touch on her conversation with Hassell Lamb, who died in 2014, about the truth.
“I don’t think (her mother) did it to hurt me, but to protect me. She was trying to save her marriage,” Rochetti-Cantrell shared. “Even after I found Daddy Frank and told her, her first concern was for my dad who raised me. Daddy never knew that I knew he wasn’t my daddy. Then it was telling him I found (Rochetti).
“My stomach was in knots, but it couldn’t have gone any better,” she recalled. “It went fine.”
Rochetti-Cantrell likened her and her family’s journey to find this new chapter and member of their lives and history to a “God wink,” an experience that could be seen as divine intervention. One example was the cover of the book. When the designers couldn’t exactly recreate what Rochetti-Cantrell wanted, she and the editors came up with their own version based off a photo of Rochetti at Reelfoot Lake.
“After I found him, he said so many times he would drive his golf cart to this lake in this little retirement community where he lived and wonder where I was and what I was doing, so I wanted something like that.”
With stock photos, they produced an image that also had a curious satchel beside the man on the cover.
“Daddy never had a satchel. But the last time I was there at the end of February, his mind was affected after his stroke and he couldn’t walk, if he asked me once he asked me 10 times to get his leather satchel from his bedroom,” she recalled. “He never had a leather satchel. I said nothing about that to them, but there’s a leather satchel beside him.
“I know that story, but it was a God wink that this story needed to be told.”
Rochetti died in March 2020.
Another God wink she holds to is the timing of her living one life and then eventually getting a new life with Rochetti.
“I said at his grave site I’ve been grieving him for a long time. I thought he was dead and I grieved about all the things he missed,” she said, from seeing his grandchildren, Tyler and Michelle, and great-grandson, Bennett, grow up. “I thought, ‘Why?’ but it’s God’s timing. I may have been a totally different person if Frank Rochetti had raised me.”
Still, Rochetti-Cantrell hopes people can take from her story that amazing things are possible and to take a step of faith.
“I know there are a lot of people who maybe don’t know about their heritage and are scared. We could have been opening a chapter into something that opened our family to something maybe we didn’t want, but are we willing to take a chance.”
“Finding Frank” is currently available in electronic form on Amazon. Print copies can also be reserved through Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites. A book signing is planned Jan. 15 at Awardmasters, 929 Paris Rd., from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. A Facebook Live reading/interview and sale is also scheduled at 3 p.m. that day at Pear Tree Mall on East Broadway.