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We Found a Baby in the Subway — and Adopted Him

A chance discovery and a shocking question turned this couple into parents

a photo of peter mercurio left and danny stewart right

Photograph by Gregg Segal

(Left to right) Peter Mercurio and Danny Stewart

En español | The origin of Danny Stewart and Pete Mercurio’s family life is as unusual as it gets. 

The story of how the New York City couple met their son, Kevin, began more than two decades ago on a subway car, took an unexpected turn in a courtroom and went on through all the stages of child-rearing, including the empty nest.

Stewart and Mercurio spoke with AARP about their family journey, the adoption of Kevin, and the joys of parenting.

Danny Stewart: It happened 21 years ago, but I remember every detail. I was rushing to meet Pete for dinner when I noticed a bundle in a corner of the 14th Street subway station.

Pete Mercurio: Danny and I had been together for about three years, but we weren’t thinking about marriage or a family. We weren’t even allowed to get married back then. 

Danny: I thought I saw a doll inside the bundle. But then its tiny legs moved. This was before everybody had cellphones. I found a pay phone and called 911. Then I called Pete.

Pete: I ran over to meet him just as the police were taking the baby away.

Danny: Over the next few days, I tried to find out how the baby was doing, but no one would tell me, so I thought that would be that. Then a couple months later, I got a notice asking me to give testimony. At the hearing the judge asked me, “Would you be interested in adopting this baby?” I was shocked, but I said yes.

danny stewart left and peter mercurio right holding baby kevin

Courtesy Peter Mercurio

(Left to right) Danny Stewart and Peter Mercurio holding baby Kevin

Pete: Danny can’t decide between tater tots and french fries, but he says yes to this?  

Danny: I knew it would work out. When I held Kevin for the first time, it felt like a miracle.

Pete: In 2011, same-sex marriage became legal in New York. Kevin was 10 by then, and he asked us, “Don’t judges marry people?” I knew where we were going with this. That same judge agreed to do our ceremony.

Danny: Kevin is taller than both of us. We actually look up to him. He runs marathons. He’s taught himself how to play guitar, how to play piano. He’s respectful, he’s kind. I really admire him. His way of going about life is just amazing. 

Pete: We’ve never thought of Kevin as ours. Your kids are never your possessions. You just do your best to prepare them for adulthood, but all of it is transient. They’re passing through, and it goes by really fast.

Danny: He’s away at college now. We miss him, but you have to let go. He’s doing what he’s supposed to ​be doing — figuring out how to live independently. Maybe what I’m proudest of: When an opportunity presents itself, Kevin says yes.

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