During a dinner party, an old man was suddenly asked who he'd talk to if he'd die soon. Out of nowhere, the high school girl he deeply loved and even had a daughter with at a tender age popped into his mind. At this point, 50 years had passed since their reluctant separation. How was his sweetheart now? Where was their never-seen daughter? Instinctively, the man decided he wanted to find them, but he had never expected things would develop out of control.
1. An Unusual Love Story
The old man was named Dennis Vinar and his sweetheart was named Karen Lehmann. Both were locals of Brownton, Minnesota. They fell for each other at high school when he was 15 and she was 13. The two teenagers unwittingly started an unusual love story. Being so different, they would often wonder how they ended up falling madly in love.
2. A Football Player
Dennis was a high school football star, and was a typical American teen pursuing his dreams. Being such a popular figure back then, what kind of person was the girl that won his heart? What was Karen like?
3. Smart But Quiet
Karen was not a star the way Dennis was, but she was one of the best clarinet players in high school. As a result of studying hard and practicing hard, she was quiet and more focused on getting good grades than running in the field, but somehow she had been attracted by this popular football star.
4. Something In Common
Work ethic was what the two had in common. Both of them worked hard for what they wanted, even though they wanted completely different things. Dennis didn't let his childhood illness set him back and was absolutely determined to reach for his goals. Meanwhile, Karen had the grades to go to whatever college she wanted. In 1958, things got interesting when the two first met.
5. Young Crush
13-year-old Karen quickly attracted the attention of 15-year-old Dennis. By 1960, both of them had gone a long way to achieving their dreams - Dennis had earned a stellar reputation as a football player and Karen had became a gorgeous musician. Their affection developed even further after Dennis asked Karen to go to prom as his “plus one.” Their teenage love story sounded like a high school romantic comedy at that point, and they believed so too, until things got out of control.
6. They Mean It
Soon, the two found it hard to pull themselves away from each other. Dennis even showed up late for his football practice, just so that he could be with his girlfriend a bit longer when walking her home. Karen also loved the attention she was getting, and both of them believed the thing between the two would last forever. When things started getting serious they even thought about having a home together. However, unfortunately something got in the way.
7. Expecting, The Unexpected
While everything was going great, something unexpected happened and changed the two forever. Karen became pregnant at the age of 15. At that time, Dennis did what seemed the only thing a boy could do under the circumstance, he proposed. However, his proposal didn't get the blessing from Karen's parents, and Karen was instead sent to a maternity home. Where did that leave Dennis?
8. Keeping The Secret
The maternity home was a kind of facility where mothers got free medical care if they lacked financial resources. In Karen's case, the only option for her was to send the child for adoption, since having an illegitimate child remained a social taboo back then. To keep such a pregnancy secret, the maternity home seemed to be the best decision the family could make. But what about these two young parents?
9. A Tough Time
In the maternity home, Karen gave birth to a girl, and she named her Denise, after her father Dennis. After Denise was given up for adoption, both Karen and Dennis were left devastated, but they tried their best to keep the relationship going, Dennis proposed a second time. As touching as their story was, they were still underage and Karen's parents once again said no. However, this was not the worst thing to happen.
10. More Challenges
Soon after, Dennis was recruited into the army whilst Karen started her college life at the University of Minnesota. Despite the difficulty of being apart, Dennis remained committed and sent his girlfriend letters once in a while, not knowing that they were being kept by Karen's father. Meanwhile, Karen assumed he had moved on in his life as a soldier, without even knowing of the letters' existence. Naturally, the relationship ended. What would the two do then?
11. Broken Hearts
Despite being heartbroken, they had to move on with their lives. Karen got married and had children after graduating from college, whilst Dennis also married and had 2 kids after finishing his military service. During the 50 years that passed, the two high school sweethearts never communicated. Neither of them knew it was not actually the end of their relationship.
12. It's Fate
When the affection between the two gradually became nothing more than a memory, one day, the past somehow made its way back. It had to be fate that put the two at the same place once again after so many years. In 2004, Dennis and friends had a dinner party where one of them asked him "if your doctor gave you 60 days to live, who would you want to take out to dinner and talk to?" He said Karen's name without hesitation. At that point, he never thought he would get in touch with her only a few days later.
13. Linked Again
There was nothing stopping Dennis from contacting Karen at that point, as he and his wife had already separated. With his friend's support, he started looking for Karen on LinkedIn. He began with his past acquaintances before he realized he could just search her name using the service. He had no idea what would happen when he was typing those letters.
14. There She Is
Using her name as the keywords, Karen's photo popped up as the third profile. As he was digging through her information online, he was glad to see his girl was living the life she had always wanted. Meanwhile, he also realized she never left his thoughts, after everything had happened. When he finally decided to call her, he left a message to the receptionist as an old friend of fifty years ago named Danny.
Although Karen wasn't convinced that it was really Dennis who had called, she called right back after getting the message. That phone call reconnected the two and set their path back to each other. Coincidentally, Karen was also single at that point. After 2 months of communication, they decided to meet in person. Who knew what may be left between the two?
16. Meeting Again
Dennis immediately booked a flight to Washington where Karen lived. They were both very excited to see each other again after all these years and both wondered what it would be like if they got back together again. Dennis landed on January 19th, 2015 after a seemingly never-ending flight. If he knew back then, he would be shocked to know where this reunion would lead to.
17. Back To Love
They knew they would never be apart ever again the moment they saw each other after all those years. They were so certain about the fact, that they got married 2 days after meeting again. It felt like they had been waiting for this moment for more than 50 years. When the newlyweds packed and went back to Minnesota, something still remained unresolved in their minds.
18. Where's The Child?
Although the two had finally lived their teenage dreams, there was still one thing they could not let go - their daughter. Both Karen and Dennis wanted to see their child again, but they were not sure if it was the right thing to do after so many years. While Dennis thought their little girl would love to meet her biological parents, Karen still feared their appearance would cause their daughter unnecessary chaos.
19. Decision Was Made
After struggling with her concerns, Karen was moved when she heard Dennis said: "I found you now, and my life will be complete if we find our daughter". Then, the two started looking for information by contacting the adoption agency they used in the 60s. The process was not easy, but they finally succeeded. The couple had managed to locate their child after over 50 years.
20. Their Daughter
Their daughter, whom they named Denise, was now called Jean Voxland. She was a middle-aged woman and a mother of three kids. Jean even still lived in Minnesota with her happy family. Once she received a letter saying a family member was trying to reconnect, she thought it was a scam. It was her husband who later checked out the truth and convinced her it was her actual biological parents who were trying to make contact.
21. Can They Be Forgiven?
Jean decided to set up a meeting with them, which was the thing she had always wanted to do, but had never done. Karen and Dennis were over the moon to know that their child wanted to meet them, especially Dennis, since he never had the chance to see his daughter. Even though Jean was a mother herself, they were still not sure if she would forgive what they did back then.
22. Meeting For The First Time
In Saint Paul, May 2016, parents and daughter finally met for the first time. They knew at that moment that there was nothing to worry about. The reunion was emotional for all of them. Karen and Dennis felt their life was complete. What they didn't know was how life would change at that moment.
23. A Family Again
When Jean first saw her biological parents, so many memories surfaced in her mind from her past as an adopted child to the recent loss of her adoptive mother. The three of them became closer as time passed. They now spend time together once a week. It felt like everyone had been in the right place at the right time.
24. A Bigger & Happier Family
After getting back together, they found they had formed a much bigger family, now including Karen's son, Dennis's 3 children, Jean, her husband, and their 3 children. They later decided to open a company together called Vinar Companies, which made them not only a big happy family, but also closely-connected partners.
25. Writing It Down
Jean first wrote things down just to let out her emotions after everything that had happened, but as she learned more about her family, those words became a family story. People who knew the family was so shocked by the incredible story that Jean's husband finally came up with a suggestion "why not publish it?"
26. A Book
Jean's husband believed that the family story was so remarkable that people may find it interesting and inspiring. The love and perseverance of this family were truly something. Thus, he suggested Jean turn their stories into a book, and helped with editing. After all the effort, there it was, a book available on Amazon called "How Did You Find Me...After All These Years?: A Family Memoir".
27. Surprising Outcome
The book became a great success, and the story of Dennis and Karen were spread all around the world. People were shocked when reading about the magnitude and powerful emotional impact of the story. Dennis and Karen were surprised to see how their lives had turned out. On the other hand, Jean had accepted the sudden fame more easily, and said: "it's a good story, and it is a true story.''
28. The Family Now
Now, this big family is closer than they've ever been. They enjoy their quality time when they're not busy dealing with their newfound success. The family has even grown bigger. "We now have 5 children, 9 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren," said Karen in a recent interview. The family story formed by 3 proposals, 5 decades and one special romance, will forever be inspirational for the world.