He was the much-loved, adopted child of a close-knit Jewish family and now has children and grandchildren of his own.
But rarely did a day pass that Marc Wolfe didn’t think about the circumstances that led him to being handed over as a new-born baby to a new family.
“Deep down I always wondered why I was given up,” he confesses. “Was it because my mother didn’t want me? I’ve had that doubt every day of my life. I have to find out why she gave me up.”
Marc’s emotional journey to trace his birth mother is documented in ITV’s Long Lost Family, hosted by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell, and airing on Tuesday at 9pm.
The 49-year-old from Surrey begins by visiting the home he grew up in with adopted parents Ruth and Terry, and older sister Benita.
He recalls his childhood with fondness, that the family “used to go to synagogue together every Saturday” and that “being Jewish gave me a sense of belonging, which is important to someone who is adopted.”
But at the age of 16, Marc suffered the emotional trauma of losing his adoptive mother to leukaemia.
“Losing mum was very, very difficult for me,” he says. “She was a very big part of her life and having her gone, I felt totally lost. In my grief, I did feel that I had lost two mothers.”
He began questioning where he had come from and for the first time wanted to find out more about his birth mother.
Having ordered his birth certificate, Marc discovered her name was Esther Joan Howard and was only 19 at the time. His father was not named, leading Marc to conclude that they were unmarried.
His adoptive parents also told him that she had gone to “great efforts” in finding a Jewish family to place him with.
“That means the world to me, it really does,” reflects Marc. “But if she did care, why did she give me up? I need to know.”
Researching through records, the team discover that Esther went on to marry in Oxford, in 1972. Further searches under her married name draw a blank, but a copy of her father’s will reveals that she had migrated to Auckland, New Zealand in 1972.
Host Nicky makes the journey to meet her at her home in the city’s North Shore, where she lives with her husband and two grown up children.
Giving a heart-breaking account of events, Esther reveals that she had never wanted to give up her son, but without the support of her family felt she had no other options. She had told her husband about Marc before they married, but Esther had only recently told her children about their half-brother.
She says: “I definitely thought about it, but I didn’t know where to start. It’s so difficult giving a child up. To get on with your life, you just have to block it out.
“I was brought up in a very strict, sheltered Jewish family. They were German refugees from the Holocaust. My mother came out of the children’s transport and my grandfather had been put in concentration camps, so they had all that background between them.
“Marc’s father wasn’t Jewish. We were secretly engaged, but I used to take off my ring when I went home. My parents didn’t like the fact he was not Jewish. When I fell pregnant my parents were horrified. They said it would kill my grandmother, so I wasn’t allowed home while I was pregnant.
“I was on my own, no job, no nothing. I didn’t think I could look after him, so there was no option.”
Following his birth, Esther nursed him for more than a week, which made being separated from him even more heart-breaking.
“I thought they would take the baby straight away after I was born, but they didn’t. I had to nurse him for nine days. That was very, very hard because you do bond. It was awful, giving him up. I just hoped and prayed he would land with a wonderful family. I wanted him to go to a Jewish family, because that’s what I thought was best.
“There was no way he was rejected. If I had the support of my family, I would have kept him.”
After nearly 50 years apart, Marc finally meets his birth mother, Esther, in a heart-breaking reunion between the pair in Hammersmith, close to where he was born.
“When I gave Marc up, I never thought I would see him again, so this is very special,” smiles Esther.
For Marc as well, finding Esther has ended a lifetime of doubts and introduced him to an extended family.
“Having my mother in my life again after this many years has made me feel complete.”
Long Lost Family airs on Tuesdays, 9pm, ITV and is available to watch on ITV Hub.