June 13, 1988 12:00 PM

Reece Sloan just couldn’t believe what his girlfriend, Cindy McClellan, was telling him. “Reece,” she said, “I can’t date you anymore.” Sloan pressed McClellan for details. They hadn’t had a fight, they enjoyed each other’s company and, as a matter of fact, they were falling in love. So why was she calling things off?

“What’s the name of your biological father?” Cindy asked Reece, who’d been adopted when he was 3.

“Cecil Deardorf,” replied the mystified suitor.

“And your own biological name is William Andrew Deardorf,” Cindy continued, leaving Reece to wonder how she’d gotten hold of such information, and leaving Cindy to wonder how to spill the weird story. Small wonder. This is the stuff of soap operas—and maybe too implausible even for them. Cindy, who was adopted at birth, had just learned that she and Reece were half-siblings, biological brother and sister. True, they’d noticed some similarities between them—the brown hair, the flat eyebrows, the pug nose and the thick lips. But brother and sister?

Both divorced with children, Sloan and McClellan were hooked up five months ago by the Date Connection, a Wichita, Kans., dating service. “You’re not going to find anybody decent in a bar,” says Reece, a fabrication worker at the Boeing plant in Wichita, whose six-year marriage ended in 1984. “The guys I’d been dating were dorks,” says Cindy, a private nurse in nearby Winfield, whose 15-year marriage ended in 1985.

For their first date, on Super Bowl Sunday, they met for burgers and Cokes at a McDonald’s. Soon after that they were into steady dating—driving up to Salina on the weekends or frequenting Eddie’s Club, a local dance parlor. “I thought Reece was one of the nicest guys I’d ever met,” says Cindy. She’s 38 and he’s 31, but neither of them minded the age difference. “You’ve heard the line from that song, ‘Older women make good lovers,’ ” cracks Reece.

Actually he has never found out if that applies to Cindy. While their courtship was affectionate, Reece was reluctant to consummate the relationship. “I’ve been having a tough time getting over my divorce,” he explains. “With Cindy, my guard was about halfway down. Besides, it’s against my morals to have intimate relations outside of marriage, though I’ve gone against what I just said now and then.”

Meanwhile, Cindy had begun a search for her biological mother. The investigator she hired couldn’t furnish much information about the woman, but he was able to provide the name of her father—Cecil Deardorf, a trash hauler from Liberal, Kans., who had died in 1984 at age 82. According to Reece, the Deardorf home was found to be unfit, and the children were removed by Kansas authorities. The investigator also gave Cindy the names of Cecil’s six other children, four of whom were adopted and two of whom were raised by foster parents. And there on the list of adoptees was Reece’s name.

“You can’t imagine how I felt,” she says. “I had to sit down and take this all in. I thought, ‘I’m just not going to tell Reece.’ I had fallen in love with him and I didn’t want to lose the gentleman. But my conscience bothered me. Plus we were so attuned to one another, I knew he would find out anyway.”

To everyone’s surprise, the transition from sweethearts to siblings wasn’t all that traumatic once the initial shock wore off. “I’m still saddened,” admits Cindy. “But we act the same way we did when we were dating. We laugh and touch. We still hug one another and say, ‘I love you.’ Only now we put ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ on the end.”

Cindy’s children—Brian, 15, and Kelli, 14—now call Sloan Uncle Reece. His children—Jason, 9, Joshua, 8, and Janae, 5—refer to McClellan as Aunt Cindy. “I wish other people had the relationship we have,” says Reece, who has begun to introduce his newfound sister to the rest of their siblings. “Cindy and I began as friends, became best friends, then turned into brother and sister. At least we avoided sibling rivalry.”

Of course it’s back to the dating grind for both of them. “I have to start all over again to find somebody,” sighs Cindy. “With my luck, what do you think will happen but I’ll end up dating another brother.”

—By Grant Pick

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