THANKSGIVING IS A TIME FOR REFLECTION, GRATITUDE AND GIVING. This is especially true for Jean Voxland, her husband, Andrew, and her birth parents, Dennis “Denny” and Karen Vinar. With a new and profound appreciation for each other, they continue to get to know one another.
The couples are inspiring others through recounted experiences in their recent book, “How Did You Find Me…After All These Years? A Family Memoir.” Jean explains, “We documented our story for future generations. We felt it was important to write down how we felt at this point in our lives and how far we have all come in getting together.”
Denny and Karen began dating when he was 15 and she was 13. They fell in love, but when Karen became pregnant at the age of 15, she went to a home for unwed mothers. Baby Denise (later named Jean) was born in August 1961 and placed for adoption.
Denny and Karen eventually parted ways, despite a second, but brief, courtship in 1965. After joining the service, Denny eventually married and had children, while Karen went to college for interior design before marrying and having a son.
Fast-forward to 2014. Denny was divorced, and Karen was widowed. Through LinkedIn, Denny reached out to Karen. She quickly replied: “How did you find me?”
The couple began rekindling their relationship. Three months later, Denny flew from Minnesota to Seattle to meet his true love for the first time in 50 years. After two days, the former junior high and high school sweethearts were married. “Persistence defeats resistance,” says Denny.
For Her Daughter’s Sake
Jean, who grew up in Hayfield, Minnesota, and now lives near Kenyon, describes a solid relationship with her adoptive parents. When she and Andrew had their first daughter in 1984, Jean visited the adoption agency to learn a bit about herself and open her birth records for her “daughter’s sake.” She found her biological mother gave birth to her at just 15 years old. Jean left her contact information in case one of her birth parents wanted to contact her in the future.
The Missing Piece
In 2015, Denny and Karen were enjoying life together at last. “Now that I found you, there is one piece missing,” Denny said to Karen. “If we could find our daughter, our family would be complete.” Working through the adoption agency, the Vinars finally met their daughter, Jean, on May 31, 2016.
Karen writes: “The door opens, and there is Jean with a radiant smile just like Denny’s smile. We hug, and we cry. It is great, and we don’t want it to end.”
Thanksgiving and Blessings
Thanksgiving marks the anniversary of the first time the Vinars’ children and grandchildren—including the Voxlands—gathered as a family. They continue to celebrate.
“Fifty years of love lost, then found, in a couple of different ways: my birth parents’ own love story, and then ‘our’ love story, where I’m included,” says Jean. “The relationship with my birth parents has grown stronger and deeper. Relationship building takes time. We have enjoyed family celebrations, hikes in the woods, dinners out at restaurants, watching movies and, once in a while, playing cards.”
With an abundance of gratitude, Jean reflects, “My birth parents searching and finding their daughter only goes to show me that we were meant to have some time together—maybe not a lifetime, but enough time to be blessings to one another.”
Trish Amundson is a Rochester-area freelance writer.