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

Cindy Berry, a 54-year-old woman, was officially adopted by Evelyn Shafer, a woman who has been Berry’s mother figure since she was 10.

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

Berry said her new mother has always been so much more than just a teacher.

“My mom and dad (Evelyn and Garry Shafer) 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 Shafer by her side.

“She was always my mentor, always there for me,” Berry said. “My dad (Garry Shafer) 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.”

Evelyn Shafer said she and her husband 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 Shafer passed away in 2019, but both women know it would have meant the world to him, knowing that Berry was officially a part of their family.

“He was very supportive of Cindy all the way through,” Evelyn 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, Evelyn Shafer and Berry say nothing much will change: They have always been, and will always be, family.