These two love birds, Karen and Dennis, have been through it all. They were at the peak of their young love in high school and ready to get married, when the unexpected happened. She was pregnant but the two were still willing to make their family work. However, things didn't play out the way these two had hoped. A series of unfortunate circumstances forced them to give up their child.
After parting from their daughter, the couple separated and it seemed like it was over forever. The thing is, life has its funny ways of making things work. Decades after they lost their daughter, Karen and Dennis found each other again and discovered what had kept them apart for so long. They also discovered what happened to their little girl.
Love can be found everywhere, in all corners of the world, especially when you're a young teenager drowning in the raging hormones. Teens tend to fall in love quickly and they fall hard. Back in 1958, things were no different. Young people enjoyed falling head over heels in love and most of them kept those memories in their hearts to this day.
One of those couples were Dennis Vinar and Karen Lehmann, high school sweethearts from Browntown, Minnesota. They always say that opposites attract. This was the case in Karen's and Dennis' relationship. The two were completely different but they somehow ended up falling for one another.
Dennis was a local football star, the classic American teen running after his dreams. A childhood illness set him back a couple of years but he determined to stay true to his goals and work hard until he achieves them. He would often help his father who was a Buick salesman in St. Paul and the two would work together.
Having been occupied with sports for most of his childhood, Dennis grew into a handsome man by the time he started high school. He was definitely the one that caught the most ladies' eyes at school. The fact that he was a football star was only adding to his good looks.
On the other hand, Karen was the complete opposite type of person. She was shy, quiet, and introverted. As a girl from a small town where nothing much ever happened, Karen was focused on her education rather than popularity.
What the two of them had in common was a stunning work ethic. Both of them were used to working hard for what they want, even though they wanted two completely different things. Karen invested most of her time into playing the clarinet and she became a star player in a band before joining college.
This is where things start to get interesting! These two met for the first time in 1958 when Karen was only 13 years old. Dennis was 15 at the time and he was quickly attracted to Karen, even though he didn't pay it much attention at first. By 1960, both of them have achieved what they always dreamed of - Karen became a beautiful musician while Dennis earned the reputation of a star football player.
Things started moving faster when Dennis asked her to accompany him to prom. She said yes and the two seemed like a perfect match on prom night. "All the girls were jealous," said Karen in an interview about the story. There is no doubt that their teenage love story sounds like almost every modern high school romantic comedy out there.
Even though the two were so different, Vinar couldn't get enough of his girlfriend. He would even be late for his football practice because he dedicated time to walk her home from school. Besides, Lehmann was a really unique girlfriend and she enjoyed the attention she was getting.
You could say they were head-over-heels into one another and what they had seemed like it would last forever. Vinar was so committed to their relationship that he even planned for them to start a home together. Sadly, something got in the way.
Unfortunately, the two couldn't live the life they had imagined. They came across an obstacle that no one around them was expecting. At the age of 15 years old, Lehmann found out she was pregnant with Vinar. The two were way too young to start a family and neither of them was prepared for this news.
However, Vinar wasn't going to leave his girlfriend alone so he decided to propose. As you can imagine, the girl's parents weren't thrilled with the idea that their daughter was going to get married at such a young age. Given that she was underage, Lehmann's parents had the right to determine whether the marriage would take place at all. Since they were against the marriage, the parents shipped Karen off to a maternity home.
Maternity homes were a thing back in the day before the 1970s. Today, there are only a few maternity homes left. In these facilities, mothers can get free medical care if they lack financial resources for regular hospitals. At the time Karen was pregnant, maternity homes were mostly oriented toward adoptions, since having an illegitimate child was a taboo topic in the society.
The social norms of the time dictated that it was mandatory to keep such a pregnancy secret. The maternity homes from this era created many negative stereotypes that are still disrupting the work of today's modern maternity homes, which are a lot different.
Naturally, this situation meant the end for the young couple. Despite feeling heartbroken, Karen had no other choice but to listen to her parents and obey their wishes. She ended up giving birth in the maternity home. She named her daughter Denise, after her father Dennis.
Denise was given up for adoption quickly after birth. Both Karen and Dennis were shaken by the outcome of their situation. Even though her parents were against her relationship with Denis, Karen still got in touch with him and he ended up proposing again. As touching as this was, it didn't change anything since her parents were still against the marriage.
Besides Karen's parents, there was another thing standing in their way. Denis got recruited into the army, while Karen started college at The University of Minnesota. They were about to separate for a while and, naturally, they feared that the distance would harm their relationship.
However, Dennis remained committed through the most difficult times. He even sent his girlfriend letters every once in a while. Sadly, Karen's father kept all the letters hidden so Karen never actually got a chance to write back. She even though Dennis moved on and their relationship slowly died out.
Despite being so heartbroken, Dennis and Karen had to move on with their lives. During an interview, Dennis once said: "I went through hell to be with her, but I couldn't. We couldn't be together."
As time went by, the two high school sweethearts lived their separate lives. In the meantime, Karen had graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design. She even got married and had children. After finishing his military service, Dennis got married as well and got two kids with his wife. Fifty years passed without the two of them ever communicating again.
Years had gone by and the relationship these two had back in the day became nothing more than a memory, just like any other. They say time heals everything but somehow the past always finds its way back into the present moment. That is how fate put the two unexpected lovers at the same place once again.
Dennis visited a dinner part in October of 2014 where he played some parlor games with friends. A friend asked him "if your doctor gave you 60 days to live, who would you want to take out to dinner and talk to?" Without any hesitation, Dennis said "Karen Lehmann." A few days later, he got in touch with her.
At this point, Vinar had separated from his wife and there was nothing stopping him from contacting the one person that never left his memory. His friend encouraged him to open a LinkedIn account and look for Karen. Once the technology got involved, Dennis was certain that he would have a chance to talk to her once again.
At first, Dennis took time to explore the website and go through its different features. He started searching for his past colleagues to freshen up his memory. That's when he decided to make a bold move and type "Karen Lehmann" in the search bar. And so he did!
He went ahead and typed "Karen Lehmann" and her picture popped up third from the top. While browsing through her profile, Dennis learned she was now living in Monroe, Washington, and working in home design. He was ecstatic to see that his lady was actually living her childhood dream.
Dennis later confirmed that Karen had never truly left his mind, despite the fact that he had once moved on and been married. He decided to continue his mission and call his one and only love. Once the receptionist picked up the phone, Dennis said "tell her an old friend of fifty years ago called. My name is Denny." Karen got the text from the receptionist and she called right back.
At first, Lehmann couldn't believe that she was talking to Dennis after such a long time. However, he had meant the world to her back in the day and she was more than happy to get in touch with him. After believing she had lost the love of her life forever, they somehow found their way back to each other.
The two started communicating via email until they gradually picked up the phone. Coincidentally, Lehmann was single as well. After two months of communication, they decided to see each other in person. Perhaps there was still something left between them?
Without any hesitation, Dennis booked a flight to Washington. He couldn't believe that he was on his way to meet his true love once again. Lehmann was equally excited to see Dennis. After all, it's been fifty years since they last saw each other. She wondered what it would feel like if they got together again?
After a flight that seemed like it lasted forever, Vinar landed in Washington on January 19th, 2015. He was ready to face Lehmann after such a long time. Could this new reunion lead to something more?
It finally happened! Karen and Dennis met again and the two were shocked to see that the old love they had for one another had not gone away even after so many years. This was a sign that the two were meant to be together and they knew it. They didn't want to be apart ever again.
Believe it or not, the two got married only two days after meeting in person. They had waited for this moment for fifty years, it made no sense to prolong it any further. "It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful," said Vinar about the wedding. The newlyweds packed their bags and went back to Minnesota.
Even though the two were now living their teenage dream, there was still something that they couldn't forget. There was somebody out there who was supposed to be a part of their family - the child that they were forced to put up for adoption so many years ago.
Both Dennis and Karen wanted to meet their daughter but they were not sure whether contacting her was the right thing to do. However, Dennis believed that their child would love to meet her biological parents, regardless of the situation they are in. Karen, on the other hand, feared that this could be too big of a change in her daughter's life.
When Dennis said: "I found you now, and my life will be complete if we find our daughter," Karen was so moved that she knew they had to look for the child. They started by looking up the adoption agency their parents had contacted in the 60s.
They asked the agency to help them find their daughter and, even though it took a while for them to get all the documentation together, they finally did it. After over 50 years, the couple managed to locate their child.
Their daughter, whom they named Denise, was now called Jean Voxland. She was a 56-year old woman and a mother of three beautiful children. On top of that, Jean was happily married and it seemed like she had her life together. She was even living nearby, in Kenyon, Minnesota
Once she received a letter saying that a family member was trying to reconnect, Jean thought it was a scam. She would've thrown the letter away if her husband hadn't decided to investigate things further. He found out that the letter came from the adoption agency and Jean couldn't believe the ones who were looking for her were actually her biological parents.
Jean decided to contact the adoption agency and set up a meeting. She had once thought about looking for her biological parents in the past but she never did it. She never expected that they would be looking for her!
Karen and Dennis were more than happy to hear that their daughter had accepted to meet them. Dennis hadn't seen his child since the day she was born but they were finally about to reunite. Now that Jean was a mother herself, they hoped that she would understand the situation they had faced back in the 60s.
The meeting was set in late May of 2016 in the offices of Lutheran Social Services in Saint Paul, Minnesota. A caseworker was assigned to accompany the parties and supervise the reunion. Both Karen and Dennis were nervous to meet their daughter, especially since they hadn't seen her for 50 years.
Once the three of them finally got together, they knew there was nothing to worry about. The reunion was very emotional and both Karen and Dennis felt as if their life was now complete. They couldn't believe that their family was reunited. This was a new beginning in their lives!
Jean couldn't describe the feeling she had once she met her biological parents. She remembered all the things she went through, from distant past and the memories of living as an adopted child to the recent death of her adoptive mother. As time went by, the three of them got closer.
They now spend time together once a week. "I feel like there's been divine intervention here. For... us to get together the way we did, everybody had to be in the right place at the right time," Jain said in an interview.
Now that the Vinars and the Lehmanns got together, they formed one huge family, including Karen's son, Dennis' three children, as well as Jean, her husband, and their own three kids.
However, reuniting as a family didn't seem like enough for this cheerful group. They decided to get together and open a company called Vinar Companies. They now work together in the furniture and lighting industry.
Meeting her parents once again overwhelmed Jean with so many emotions that she had to find a way to let it all out. She decided to write things down and get her feelings out on the paper, hoping that would help her wrap her head around this unexpected situation. As time went by, she learned more and more about her new family and so she started forming a story.
The friends and acquaintances of both sides of the family were so shocked by their incredible story. Jean's husband, Andrew, was so moved by the story his wife had written that he got the idea to publish it.
He realized that what his wife had written was a universal story that should be known in the world. That's when he explained his idea to Jean and the two started working on turning all her diaries into a book.
Jean also convinced her parents to join in on the project and tell their stories. They spoke from the heart, explaining what it felt like to be torn apart and then reunited with the loved ones after over 50 years. It was truly a unique story that you can read in their book titled How Did You Find Me... After All These Years?: A Family Memoir.
Just like Andrew had predicted, the book became a huge success. The story of the Lehmanns and the Vinars had traveled the world. Dennis and Karen packed their bags and headed on a tour all over the United States, telling their stories in bookstores and libraries.
People were astonished to read a story with such magnitude and emotions. Back in the day, when they were just two teenagers, Dennis and Karen would've never imagined their life the way it is now. Even though the two of them are quite shocked by the outcome, Jean wasn't surprised about the sudden fame. "It's a good story, and it is a true story," she said.
Nowadays, this big family is closer than ever. They get together once a week for dinner when they're not busy with the newly-acquired fame and success! They are all still shocked by the outcome of their story and how everything was tied together so perfectly.
Believe it or not, their family has grown even further. "We now have five children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren," confirmed Karen in a recent interview. The entire family is so grateful for the opportunity to publish their story and share it with the world, as well as pass this inspiring tale from generation to generation.