How Steve Jobs Met His Biological Father: You Won't Believe It
October 24, 2011
On October 5, 2011 we lost a genius. Steve Jobs was undeniably best known as the co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple, Inc. And he was also from a modern family. In the new biography, Steve Jobs, author Walter Isaacson reveals Jobs’ thoughts on being adopted and details his journey to uncover his birth parents.
Jobs was born on February 24, 1955 to unwed parents, Abdulfattah “John” Jandali and Joanne Carole Schieble. Both were graduates of University of Wisconsin. Jobs was placed for adoption at 10-months old, but in a strange twist, his parents then got married and had a daughter, Mona Simpson two years later. This is so bizarre to me. They were in a relationship. Got pregnant. Kept Jobs for almost a year. Gave him up. And then did everything the right way. Got married—then procreated. They divorced in 1962 and John lost touch with Mona who was just five at the time.
Jobs grew up in a working-class family; his father, Paul Jobs was a mechanic and his mother, Clara was an accountant. Asked in a 1995 interview what he wanted to pass on to his children, Jobs replied, “Just to try to be as good a father to them as my father was to me. I think about that every day of my life.” This is interesting considering Jobs himself denied a birth child he fathered. Oh yes, on May 17, 1978, when Jobs was 23, his high school girlfriend Brennan gave birth to a daughter, Lisa. Eventually, Jobs acknowledged paternity of his daughter despite she was raised by her mother on welfare. (That didn't stop her though. She went to Harvard and is a journalist who has been published in magazines, Vogue among them.) Full story here.
In 1986 Jobs met Lisa (she even lived with him) and went searching for his own biological parents. Isaacson writes: “There was a hole, he felt something was missing.” He tracked down Joanne and through her met Mona. The siblings developed a close relationship and together, decided to find their biological father. They found him to be managing a coffee shop in Sacremento, California. Jobs sent Mona to meet him alone. Over coffee John obviously told Mona how sorry he was for abandoning her and then revealed he had another child. Of course Mona knew this, but baited him a little. John said: “Who knows!” about his whereabouts and, nonchalantly, “We’ll never see him again!” The conversation changed. John told Mona he wished she could have seen him in his prime and boasted that he once ran a very successful restaurant—one that even Steve Jobs ate at. Mona pulled back in shock and just bit her tongue. John took this as Mona being impressed, so he said: “Yeah, he was a great tipper!” John had no clue Steve Jobs, the genius behind the world’s most valuable company was his son. Jobs revealed to Isaacson that he remembered the restaurant and shaking the owner’s hand, but that was all.
Jobs respectively asked that Joanne and Mona not tell John anything about him. Jobs has said of his birth father: “I learned a little bit about him and I didn't like what I learned.” But with google, there is no doubt, John knows exactly who his son was. Shame.
As for the man that raised Jobs: “I was very lucky. My father, Paul, was a pretty remarkable man.” Jobs described both Paul and Clara as his parents and the people who changed the way he felt about being adopted. He went from feeling “abandoned” to “chosen.” Beautiful. I hope JD never feels abandoned. I hope he always knows just how wanted he was. I changed my entire world to bring him into it. I live for my child.
Thank you, Steve Jobs. Like the rest of the world, Apple has personally influenced my life and my immediate family’s. I wrote this blog on a Mac. One day, I will show it to JD, adding you to the long list of remarkable people that have succeeded with or without their biological father. Click here to listen to Jobs talk about his bio dad.