She was an orphan when she was born in Germany 56 years ago. Today, she lives with her birth father and is culinary manager at the Red Lobster restaurant in Grand Forks.
Brigitte Ulke came away from the restaurant kitchen the week before Easter to talk about her road to Grand Forks from Germany. It was long and complicated.
She always had known her birth mother couldn't take care of her. Although she was raised with adoptive parents on a farm, she often wondered about her birth father.
"You always want to know," she said.
Brigitte grew up in a rural area close to the American Ramstein Air Force Base in southwest Germany.
She said, "I had a good childhood with parents who adopted me. My mother was a tailor and my dad a carpenter on a small farm.''
Brigitte married the late George Ulke, who was 11 years older than her. They had two sons. Andrew is still in Germany. Simon, who lives here in Grand Forks, is a graduate of Community High School with plans to attend Northland College.
The search for her roots was long and relentless. Brigitte says, "At some time in your life, you just need to know."
She was able at first to find out more about her birth mother. And when they met, her mother told her she had arranged the adoption. She said, ''I just wanted a better life for you." Then Brigitte would not rest until she learned about her birth father.
Eventually, she found he was an American serviceman who had been stationed in Germany. When Brigitte searched for a name, 11 turned up. Then the middle name. Three popped up.
"I couldn't leave it alone," she said. Eventually, she found a connection. She said her father was so excited. He said, "You are my daughter. You know my Army number."
It was 10 years ago when she found the biological father she had never known. He was a contractor living with his family in Fisher, Minn. He's Gary Wyslow, who had never been aware of his daughter in Germany-born in 1963.
Her search to find him had been relentless. Yes, he was stationed in Germany. But he had never known of her birth. And it was her need to find her father that brought her this area 10 years ago.
It was a joyous, almost unbelievable bonding of a daughter and her father. Now a widower, Brigitte's father is 76 and retired. He lives with her and her youngest son, Simon, in Grand Forks.
He was stationed at the American Ramstein Air Force Base at the time she was born. When he learned years later of the daughter he never knew, Wyslow wanted to meet her. It turned out he also had been adopted.
"There has been nothing secretive. No resistance. It's unbelievable," Brigitte says. And her father's late wife encouraged the meeting of Gary Wyslow and his daughter.
There was jubilation when she arrived at the airport near Grand Forks at the end of 2007. She came originally for a visit.
She has worked at the Red Lobster since 2010. There was a time when she would work a second shift as a nighttime baker at Panera. She cleaned a neighbor's house on her day off.
She also has given flute lessons at Arioso Music Academy.
These days, she does only one full time shift at the Red Lobster. At home, she and her father talk German.