CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – On this special day of love, one local family took the final step in a journey they have been waiting more than four decades for.

A 54-year-old woman was adopted by a woman who’s been a motherly figure to her since she was ten.

“I always thought that ‘love at first sight’ meant your better half, but in this case, it was this kid,” said Evelyn Shafer.

On Tuesday, Shafer officially became the mother of Cindy Berry and grandmother to her four children. The two met in 1979 at Valley Grove Elementary; Shafer was a sixth-grade teacher and Berry was a student. They said from the very beginning, they had a special bond.

Berry said Shafer was more than just a teacher.

“My mom and dad were always like my safe place, my refuge from the crazy at home. They were always there for me,” Berry said. “She was more than just my teacher. She was one who always supplied clothes, food, the basic necessities that children need in life. In addition to tutoring me in school.”

Berry said she couldn’t imagine where she would be in life without Evelyn and Garry by her side.

“She was always my mentor, always there for me,” Berry said. “My dad was the one, the first man who taught me unconditional love. He was the one to tell me, ‘I love you,’ and as a child, those three words are so important.”

Shafer said they always wanted to adopt Berry, but they didn’t want to upset her biological parents. So, they waited more than four decades to make it official. Unfortunately, Garry passed away in 2019, but they know it would have meant the world to him knowing Berry was officially a part of their family.

“He was very supportive of Cindy all the way through,” Shafer said. “He was a great mentor to her, and he would’ve done anything he could for her.”

Even with the excitement of the day, they said it doesn’t change anything. They have been and always will be family.