This pair of love birds has had quite a story – they were in high school when their young love was at its peak and they decided to get married, but before they were able to walk down the aisle, she got pregnant. Despite the unexpected pregnancy, they still wanted to make things work, but things didn’t turn out the way they had hoped. A series of unfortunate circumstances made them give up their child. The couple separated after they parted from their daughter, and it seemed as if it was over forever. However, life can make things work in such funny ways and decades after losing their daughter, Dennis and Karen found each other once more. They finally discovered why they had been apart for so long and what happened to their child.
Love can be found anywhere in the world, especially if you are a young teenager with raging hormones. Teens have the tendency to fall in love pretty quickly and they fall quite hard – even back in 1958.
High School Sweethearts
Young people enjoyed falling in love and many of them have kept the memories in their hearts even to this day. Hailing from Minnesota, Browntown High School sweethearts Dennis Vinar and Karen Lehmann were one of those couples.
They say that opposites attract and this was clearly the case with Karen and Dennis. These two were completely different but somehow still fell for each other. A local football star, Dennis was the classic American teenager running after his dreams.
In spite of a childhood illness that set him back a few years, he determined to strive for his goals and worked hard until he achieved them. He often worked with and helped his father, a Buick salesman in St. Paul.
Sports were a big part of Dennis’ childhood and by the time that he started high school, he grew into a handsome young man. He was certainly the one who caught the most girls’ eyes at school, and the fact that Dennis was a football star only added to his good looks.
Introverted Yet Focused
Karen, on the other hand, was the complete opposite as she was quiet, shy, and introverted. A small-town girl, Karen focused on her education and did not really care about popularity. However, Karen and Dennis had something in common – a stunning work ethic.
They were both used to working hard to get what they want, even if they wanted two totally different things. Karen invested her time in playing the clarinet and was actually the school band’s star player before she went to college.
In 1958, things started to get interesting for 13-year-old Karen and 15-year-old Dennis as this was when they met each other for the first time. He was quickly attracted to her, but he didn’t pay a lot of attention to it at first.
Dreams Come True
By 1960, they both achieved what they had always dreamed of – Dennis became a star football player while Karen became a lovely musician. Things began to move faster when he asked her to be his date to prom and she said yes.
The two looked perfect for each other on prom night and Karen said in an interview, “All the girls were jealous.” Their teenage love story definitely sounds like the modern high school romantic comedies we see. Dennis and Karen were so different, but he couldn’t get enough of her.
He would even go to his football practices late because he took the time to walk his girlfriend home from school. As for Karen, she was a unique girlfriend and she liked the attention that she was getting.
It was clear to see that the two were head-over-heels in love and it seemed like what they had would last forever. Dennis was so committed to the relationship that he had plans for them to build a life together.
But, something, unfortunately, got in the way. Unfortunately, Dennis and Karen couldn’t live the life that they had imagined since the two came across an obstacle people around them never expected.
At 15 years old, Karen discovered she was pregnant with her and Dennis’ baby, but the lovebirds were far too young to be starting a family and they were not prepared for the news. However, Dennis wasn’t leaving his girlfriend alone, so he made a decision to propose.
Karen’s parents, as you can imagine, were not thrilled with the idea of their daughter getting married at a very young age, and since she was underage, they had the right to decide whether the marriage would happen at all.
The parents were against the marriage, so they sent Karen to a maternity home. Before the 1970s, maternity homes were actually a thing, but today, a few maternity homes are left. These facilities provide mothers free medical care if the women lack financial resources to go to regular hospitals.
Back in the day, when Karen got pregnant, maternity homes were mostly geared toward adoptions, since it was taboo to have an illegitimate child at the time. The social norms then dictated that such a pregnancy had to be kept secret.
The maternity homes from that time created many negative stereotypes that are still disrupting the work that today’s modern maternity homes are doing, which is very different. In spite of feeling heartbroken, Karen had to obey her parents’ wishes, and the situation meant the end of the young couple’s relationship. She eventually gave birth at the maternity home and named her little girl Denise, after her dad Dennis. After being born, Denise was quickly given up for adoption, and the outcome of their situation shook both Karen and Dennis.
Against The Relationship
Her parents may have been against her and Dennis’ relationship, but Karen still contacted him and in the end, he proposed again. This was definitely touching, but nothing changed since her parents were adamant and still weren’t in favor of the marriage.
Aside from Karen’s parents, the couple faced another challenge – Denis was recruited into the army and Karen started attending the University of Minnesota. The couple was about to be apart for some time and naturally, they feared the distance would hurt their relationship.
However, Dennis kept committed even at the most difficult times, sending his girlfriend letters every now and then. Sadly, Karen’s dad hid all the letters, so Karen never actually had the chance to write back and she even thought that Dennis moved on. Their relationship eventually died out.
Even though Dennis and Karen were so heartbroken, they had no choice but to get on with their lives. “I went through hell to be with her, but I couldn’t. We couldn’t be together,” Dennis once said in an interview. As time passed by, the high school sweethearts lived separate lives. Karen graduated from college with a degree in Interior Design, got married and became a mother, while Dennis finished his military service, also got married and became a father of two.
Fifty Years Later
Fifty years passed and the two never got in touch with each other again. Years passed by and the relationship they had in the past became nothing more than just a memory. They say that time heals everything but the past somehow finds its way back to the present moment, and that is how fate brought the two ex-lovers together once again. In October of 2014, Dennis went to a dinner party and played parlor games with friends.
When a friend asked Dennis, “If your doctor gave you 60 days to live, who would you want to take out to dinner and talk to?” he answered without any hesitation, “Karen Lehmann.” A couple of days later, he contacted her. At this point, Dennis and his wife had already separated and nothing was keeping him from getting in touch with the one person who never left his memory.
Create A Profile
A friend encouraged him to make a LinkedIn account and search for Karen and once the technology became involved, Dennis was sure he would get a chance to speak to her again. At first, Dennis explored the website, taking time to go through its various features, and then he began searching for his former colleagues to refresh his memory. That is when he finally decided to take a bold step and he searched for “Karen Lehmann”. Dennis typed “Karen Lehmann” in the search bar and her photo was the third from the top.
Browsing through her profile, he found out that she lived in Monroe, Washington and worked in home design, making him feel ecstatic that his lady was living her childhood dream. He later admitted that Karen never really left his mind even though he had moved on and gotten married to another woman, which is why he decided to continue and make a call to his one and only love.
An Old Friend
When the receptionist answered the phone, Dennis asked them to “tell her an old friend of fifty years ago called. My name is Denny.” When Karen received the message from the receptionist, she called right back. At first, Karen couldn’t believe she was actually talking to Dennis after a very long time, but he had meant a great deal to her in the past and she was thrilled to communicate with him again. After believing that the love of her life had been lost forever, they somehow managed to find their way to each other.
Keeping In Touch
They began keeping in touch through email until they eventually talked on the phone. Coincidentally, Karen was also single and after they communicated for two months, they made a decision to meet. Was there something left between them? Without hesitation, Dennis got a flight to Washington and couldn’t believe he was actually on his way to see his true love again. Karen was equally excited to meet Dennis as it has been fifty years since she last saw him.
One Question Left
A question ran through her mind: What would it feel like if she and Dennis got together again? After his flight which seemed to last forever, Dennis arrived in Washington on the 19th of January 2015. He was quite ready to see Karen after a very long time, but the question is whether this new reunion could lead to something more. It finally happened! Dennis and Karen met again and they were shocked to see their old love for one another never really going away even after many years.
They knew it was a sign that they were meant to be with each other and they didn’t want to ever part again. It might sound unbelievable but they actually tied the knot just two days after they met in person – after all, the two had waited for this for fifty years and prolonging it any further made no sense to them. “It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful,” said Dennis about the wedding, and the newlyweds went on to pack their bags and move back to Minnesota.
Living The Dream
Even though Dennis and Karen were now living the dream they had when they were teenagers, there was still something they couldn’t forget. Somebody out there was supposed to be part of their family – their child whom they were forced to give up for adoption many years ago. They both wanted to meet their child but they were unsure whether getting in touch with their daughter was right.
However, Dennis believed their child would like to meet him and Karen, her biological parents, regardless of anything. Karen feared this change could be too big for her daughter. When Dennis told Karen, “I found you now, and my life will be complete if we find our daughter,” she was really moved. She knew they needed to find their child and they started by finding the adoption agency that their parents had contacted back in the ‘60s. They told the agency that they needed help finding their daughter and while it took them a while to get all the documents together, the couple finally did it.
Finding Their Child
After 50 years, Dennis and Karen managed to find their child. Their daughter, whom they had named Denise, was now Jean Voxland, who seemed to have her life together. She was 56 years old, happily married, had three beautiful children, and even lived nearby, in Kenyon, Minnesota. When Jean got a letter that said a family member was attempting to reconnect with her, she actually thought it was a scam at first. She would have thrown the letter away had her husband not decided to investigate further. He learned that the letter was from the adoption agency, while Jean couldn’t believe her biological parents were actually looking for her.
Getting In Touch
Jean decided to get in touch with the adoption agency and schedule a meeting. There was a time when she had thought about searching for her biological parents (she never did), but she had never thought they would go looking for her! Dennis and Karen were thrilled to hear that their child had agreed to meet them. The last time Dennis had seen his daughter was when she was born and now they were finally going to reunite. Since Jean was now a mother herself, her biological parents hoped she would understand their situation back in the ‘60s.
The meeting was going to happen in May 2016 in the Lutheran Social Services offices in Saint Paul, Minnesota and there was a caseworker assigned to accompany them and supervise the reunion. Karen and Dennis were both nervous to see their daughter in person, especially since they had not seen her for more than 50 years. When the three of them got together, they knew that they did not have to worry about anything. They had a very emotional reunion and both Dennis and Karen felt like their life was now finally complete.
They could not believe their family was reunited and this was just the beginning of their lives together! Jean couldn’t put into words the feeling that she had when she finally met her biological parents. All the things that she went through flashed through her mind, from the distant past and memories of being an adopted child to her adoptive mother’s recent death.
As time went by, all three of them became closer and they now spend some time together once every 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,” Jean said in an interview. When the Lehmanns and the Vinars got together, they formed a big family, including Dennis’ three children, Karen’s son, and Jean, her husband, and their three kids. However, it seems like reuniting as a family was not enough for the cheerful group since they decided to come together and start a company which they called Vinar Companies.
Where Are They Now?
Now, they work together in the lighting and furniture industry. Meeting her parents again after 50 years overwhelmed Jean with a lot of emotions and she needed to find a way in order to let everything out. She decided to put things down on paper to get her feelings out, with the hope that she can wrap her head around the unexpected situation. As time passed by, she learned more things about her new family, so she began forming a story – a story so incredible that friends and acquaintances of the family were shocked.
Andrew, Jean’s husband, was really moved by the incredible story that his wife had written, so he came up with the idea of publishing it. Andrew realized that what Jean had written was a story that the world should know. Then, he explained his idea to his wife and the two began to work on making a book out of all her diaries. Jean also convinced Dennis and Karen to join in on her project and share their stories. Her parents spoke from the heart and they explained what it felt like when they got torn apart and reunited after over 50 years.
Their story is truly unique and you can read it in their book which they titled “How Did You Find Me… After All These Years?: A Family Memoir”. Andrew had predicted that the book would become a huge success and it did! The story of the Vinars and the Lehmanns had traveled the world, with Dennis and Karen ending up going on a tour throughout the United States where they told their stories in libraries and bookstores. Readers of their story were astonished by its magnitude and emotions.
When they were teenagers, Dennis and Karen never imagined that their life would turn out this way and while they are pretty shocked by the outcome, the sudden fame didn’t really surprise Jean. “It’s a good story, and it is a true story,” she commented. Nowadays, their big family is much closer and they get together every week for dinner if they’re not busy with their newly-acquired success and fame! They are still shocked by their story’s outcome and how everything got tied together so perfectly.
Their family has also gotten bigger. “We now have five children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren,” Karen said in a recent interview.The whole family is really grateful for having the chance to share their story with the world and being able to pass their inspiring story from generation to generation.