High School Sweethearts Reunite… And Find The Child They Gave Up

Do you remember the passion you had when you fell in love in high school? Teenagers feel love so strongly and deeply. Unfortunately, they usually break up. But many high school relationships beat the odds. Well, this high-school romance played out a little differently. When Karen got pregnant in high school, her boyfriend Dennis wanted to make their family work. Unfortunately, the circumstances forced them to give their baby up for adoption.

Dennis Vinar and Karen Lehmann
Source: Facebook

After the difficulty of giving up their daughter, Dennis and Karen separated. Despite their love for each other, life got in the way. The funny thing about life is that it can’t stop fate. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to in the end. Decades after giving up their child, and leading separate lives, Karen and Dennis found their way back to each other. It didn’t take them long to discover what happened to their daughter.

A Strange Love Story

Love can be found in all sorts of places all around the world, especially if you’re a teenager filled with raging hormones. When you are young and less guarded, it’s easier to fall in love fast and hard. Well, things weren’t much different back in 1958. In every generation, era, or decade, young teens enjoy falling head of over heels.

Dennis Vinar and Karen Lehmann
Source: Pinterest

Most of the time, high school relationships don’t last, but the memories last forever. It takes you back to a simpler time of innocent love. Dennis Vinar and Karen Lehmann were high school sweethearts from Browntown, Minnesota. Karen and Dennis were very different from one another but still fell in love with each other. You know what they say: opposites attract.

He Was a Football Star

Back in high school, Dennis was a classic American teenager with his life ahead of him. As the star of his football team, he had big dreams to follow. Although a childhood illness held him back a few years, Dennis was determined to work hard until he reaches his goals. His dad worked in St. Paul as a Buick salesman, and Dennis would often help him out.

Dennis Vinar
Source: Pinterest

Growing up, Dennis was usually preoccupied with sports. By the time he started high school, he had grown up into a handsome man. As an attractive young teen, many of the ladies in his class developed a little crush on Dennis. Plus, he was a football star, which only added to his appeal.

She Was Sweet and Quiet

Karen, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. She was more introverted, shy, and quiet. She was living in a small town where nothing was ever really going on. Instead of trying to be popular, Karen directed all her focus on her education. The one thing these two did have in common was their incredible work ethic.

Karen Lehmann
Source: YouTube

Both Karen and Dennis were motivated to work hard for what they wanted, despite wanting different things. While Dennis put all his efforts in sports, Karen invested her time playing and practicing the clarinet. In fact, she got so good that she was a star player in a band before even starting college. Well, it didn’t take for these two talented stars to fall in love.

True Love

Okay, this is where things start to get interesting. The first time they met in 1958, Karen was 13. At the time, Dennis was 15, and he was really attracted to Karen. At first, he tried not to pay attention to it. When 1960 came along, the two of them have already reached their dreams. Karen was a wonderful musician, and Dennis was known as a star football player.

Young couple walking in love
Photo by Rock and Wasp / Shutterstock

When Dennis asked Karen if he could take her to prom, things started moving faster. She said yes, and the night was magical, and they seemed perfect together! During an interview about the story, Karen said, “all the girls were jealous.” Their love story seems like it came out of a high school rom-com.

Getting Serious

Even though the two couldn’t be more different, Dennis and Karen couldn’t get enough of each other. Sometimes, Dennis would get to football practice late because he would walk his girlfriend home from school. Karen was unique and really enjoyed the attention she was getting from the star of her school’s football team.

A couple mid proposal in front of a sunset
Source: Pinterest

They fell head-over-heels and fast. When you feel such a strong, passionate, and intimate connection with someone at such a young age, you think it will last forever. It was no different for these two. Dennis was so committed to Karen that he planned to start a life and build a home with her. Unfortunately, there was something that got in the way.

A Bump in the Road

Sadly, their lives didn’t go as planned. They came across a difficult obstacle that nobody saw coming. When she was just 15 years old, Karen found out she was pregnant, and obviously, the father was Dennis. Neither of them were prepared for this news and didn’t know what to do. They were way too young to become parents.

Karen’s parents
Source: Facebook

Not wanting his girlfriend to feel abandoned or alone, Dennis decided to propose. As you can imagine, Karen’s parents weren’t happy about their daughter getting married at such a young age. Since she wasn’t even 18, her parents had the final decision about this marriage. Since they were clearly against it, they sent Karen to live in a maternity home.

Hiding Away

Before the 1970s, Maternity homes were a thing, but now there are very few that are still around. These facilities were intended to help mothers with financial and medical care. Since Karen was pregnant at the time, the maternity home was focusing on adoption. This was back in the day when having an illegitimate child was considered taboo in that society.

Photograph of a young mother in her back yard holding a baby
Source: Pinterest

Because of the social norms, everyone involved felt like it was mandatory to keep this pregnancy a secret. The maternity homes of the created negative stereotypes which gives modern maternity homes a bad reputation. Thankfully, today’s maternity homes are completely different from the ones in the 1960s. Nowadays, they are geared towards the best interest of the woman and not what society thinks.

Baby Denise

Karen felt heartbroken but was forced to listen to her parents and accept their decision. Naturally, this messy situation meant that it was the end for the young couple. Karen ultimately gave birth at the maternity home. She had a girl that she named Denise after her father, Dennis. Soon after she was born, Denise was given up for adoption.

The baby
Source: Pinterest

Dennis and Karen were both devastated by their breakup and the whole outcome of the situation. Even though her parents were clearly against Karen’s relationship with Dennis, she still managed to get in touch with him. He ended up proposing again. This was an adorable gesture, but unfortunately, nothing changed. Her parents were still against the marriage and wouldn’t allow it.

Long Distance

Karen’s parents were clear about how they felt about their daughter’s relationship. However, this wasn’t the only thing standing in the way. Denis got recruited into the army (which Karen’s parents were probably happy about), and Karen started studying at The University of Minnesota. They knew that they would be separated for a long time and worried that distance would ruin their relationship.

Denis, a military soldier
Source: Facebook

Dennis remained just as committed as he always was during challenging times. He even made sure to send his girlfriend letters so that she would know he’s thinking about her. Sadly, Karen’s parents hid the letters from her, so she never got the opportunity to write back. Eventually, Karen thought that Dennis moved on, and their relationship slowly fizzled.

Moving On

After everything they have been through together, Dennis and Karen were both heartbroken. However, it was time for them to move on with their lives. Dennis explained, “I went through hell to be with her, but I couldn’t. We couldn’t be together.” As time went by, they went on their separate ways and lived their separate lives.

Karen at graduation
Source: Facebook

Karen earned a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design when she graduated from college and even got married. She had children and started her own family. Dennis finished his military service and also started his life. He married a different woman, and they have two children together. 50 years went by, and the high school lovers didn’t communicate ever again. They were both focused on their own lives and families.

Years Later

As decades went by, the relationship these two had as teenagers became nothing but a memory. They say that time heals all wounds, and they both moved on. However, fate stepped in from the past and made its way to the present. Somehow, Karen and Dennis were once again in the same place at the same time.

Closeup black and white photo of hands clinking glasses at the restaurant
Photo by kryzhov / Shutterstock

In October 2014, Dennis went to a dinner party where he was playing parlor games with a few friends. One of his friends then asked him, “If your doctor gave you 60 days to live, who would you want to take out to dinner and talk to?” Dennis didn’t hesitate, and his immediate response was Karen Lehmann. He got in touch with her just a few days later.

Modern Technology

At this point, Dennis and his wife were separated. Nothing was stopping him from contacting the girl who stayed in his memory for all these years. Finally, one of his friends convinced him to open a LinkedIn account with the hopes of finding Karen. With technology and social media on the rise, Dennis was certain that he would find her.

The Linkedin logo
Source: Linkedin

After opening the account, Dennis started exploring the website and learning all the features. At first, he looked for some of his past co-workers to freshen up his memory. He started searching people he knew, and after finding them, he decided to make a bold move. His curiosity made him type Karen Lehman in the search bar.

Finding Her!

Dennis wasn’t even sure if she had a LinkedIn account, but he was hoping she would. After searching her name, her picture popped up as the third profile. As he was looking through her page and seeing what she’s been up to, he noticed that she was working in home design and living in Monroe, Washington. He was extremely happy to see that Karen was fulfilling her dreams.

Karen Lehmanns profile on Linkedin
Source: Linkedin

Dennis admitted that even while he was married, Karen never truly left his mind or his heart. He decided to call the girl he fell in love with as a teenager. The receptionist answered the phone and Dennis said, “Tell her an old friend from 50 years ago called. My name is Denny.” As soon as Karen got his message, she called back right away.

Talking Again

At first, Karen could barely believe she was actually talking to Dennis after all this time. However, there was a time in her life where he was the most important thing to her, so she was more than happy to speak with him and see how he is doing. She knew he was the love of her life back then, but she thought she had lost him forever.

An old house phone
Source: Twitter

They found their way back to each other, and this time nothing could stop them. Coincidentally, Karen was single too, and the high school sweethearts started talking through email and on the phone once in a while. After spending two months talking, they decided it would be amazing to see each other in person. Maybe see if that young love and passion was still there.

Then Meeting Again

Dennis did not hesitate and decided to book a flight to Washington. He was in disbelief. It still didn’t hit him that he was on the way to meet his first love once again. Karen was just as excited to see Denis. It has been over 50 years since they were together last. They were just kids back then. She wondered if feelings would come back if they were to see each other again.

Denis and Karen
Source: Facebook

For Dennis, the flight seemed like it lasted forever. Finally, on January 19th, 2015, Dennis landed in Washington. He was excited, nervous, and ready to see Karen after all these years. He also wondered if this reunion could lead to something more. Their love was so real back then, and if it were up to them, they would have probably gotten married.

Still In Love

Finally, this highly anticipated reunion happened. Dennis and Karen saw each other once again. They both suspected that their old love was still there, but once they looked at each other, they immediately felt it. They were still connected by the happy memories they shared. Could this be a sign that they were meant to be together? All they knew was that they didn’t want to be apart again.

Denis and Karen
Source: Facebook

Shockingly, just two days after meeting again, they got married. They already spent 50 years apart, and they didn’t want to waste another moment. There really was no reason to prolong it. Dennis later described the wedding, “It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.” The couple packed their stuff and went back to Minnesota.

The Baby From Long Ago

The newlyweds were living out their teenage dream and couldn’t be happier. However, there was one thing that they couldn’t forget about. There was someone who should have been part of their family. Many years ago, they created a child together that they were forced to put up for adoption. Karen and Dennis both wanted to meet their daughter, but they weren’t sure if it would be the right decision.

A baby’s hand holding his mother's hand
Source: Pinterest

They didn’t know if contacting her right now would disrupt her life. However, Dennis truly believed in his heart that their daughter would love to meet her biological parents. Karen, on the other hand, was worried that this would be a huge shock for their daughter, and it would cause a huge change in her life.

Making a Choice

Dennis said to Karen, “I found you now, and my life will be complete if we find our daughter.” Karen was so touched by what Dennis said, and she knew it was time for them to find their child. She always loved him and truly wanted to see him happy. They started off looking up the adoption agency that Karen’s parents contacted back in the 60s.

Denis and Karen on the couch during an interview
Source: Facebook

They asked the agency to please help them find their child. It’s been decades, so it took a while to get all the documentation together, but they didn’t stop. Finally, they did it! After 50 years, the couple managed to locate their daughter. They wondered what she looked like, what her interests were, but most importantly, they just hoped she was happy.

Their Long Lost Child

When her baby was born, Karen decided to name her Denise. But her real name is Jean Voxland. Jean is a 56-year old woman at this point. She had a family of her own and was happily married with three wonderful children. She was happy and seemed to have her life together. Jean wasn’t very far away, living in Kenyon, Minnesota.

Jean Voxland
Source: Facebook

Jean got a letter saying that a family member wanted to reconnect, but she thought it was a scam. If her husband didn’t want to look further into it, she probably would have thrown the letter away. Once he found out the letter was, in fact, from the adoption agency, Jean was shocked. She couldn’t believe that her biological parents were looking for her.

Will She Understand?

Jean finally made the decision to call the adoption agency and schedule a meeting. At one point in her life, Jean did think about looking for her biological parents, but she never went through with it. What she didn’t expect was that they would be looking for her. I mean, they must have given her up for a reason.

The Center for changing lives Lutheran social service
Source: Yelp

Karen and Dennis were both thrilled that their daughter agreed to meet with them. Dennis didn’t see his child since the day she was born. Finally, after all this time, they were about to reunite. Since Jean was now a mother herself, Dennis and Karen hoped she understands the difficult decision they had to make in the 60s. It was a sensitive situation, but they wanted to explain it.

A Family Reunion

In May 2016, a meeting was set up in the Lutheran Social Services offices in Saint Paul, Minnesota. There was a caseworker there who was assigned to accompany the families and supervise their reunion. Karen and Dennis were excited but super nervous about meeting their daughter. It’s been 56 years since they saw her.

Denis, Karen, and Jean on the couch being interviewed
Source: Facebook

However, once the three of them were all together, they knew that they had nothing to worry about. For all three, this reunion was extremely emotional. Karen and Dennis finally felt like their life was complete. They couldn’t believe that they found each other and now they found their daughter! Now that the family is reunited, it was the beginning of a new chapter.

Back Together

Jean couldn’t put the feeling and emotions she had once she met her biological parents. She went through a lot in her life. She has many past and distant memories living as an adopted child. To make things sadder, she was dealing with the recent death of her adoptive mother. The reunion happened at a good time, and the three kept getting close and closer.

Denis, Karen, and Jean in front of the trees in the fall
Source: Facebook

Now, they meet up at least once a week. In an interview, Jean said, “I feel like there’s been divine intervention here. For us to get together the way we did, everybody had to be in the place at the right time.” She forgives them and understands. She is just happy that she had the opportunity to make up for the lost time.

Merging Families

Now that Dennis and Karen finally got together, they formed a massive family. This included Dennis’s three children, Karen’s son, Jean, her husband, and their three children. Most of the time, these Brady Brunch situations cause arguments and family feuds. It happens often and can even lead to bigger issues. Well, things were different for this cheerful family.

Denis and Karen with Jean and her husband
Source: Facebook

Reunited and being one big happy family wasn’t enough for them. They decided to start a business together and opened a company in the furniture and lighting industry. The company is called Vinar Companies, and they are all working there together. I guess mixing family and business doesn’t always cause problems. At least that was the case for this merged family.

Writing Her Feelings

After meeting her parents, Jean was happy but overwhelmed with so many emotions. I mean, this reunion was a shock to everybody. To help her cope with her feelings, Jean decided to let everything out on paper. She hoped that maybe writing it down with help her wrap her head around the situation. As she learned more about her family, she kept writing.

A handwriting with a pen
Source: Pinterest

With time, her feelings were turning into a story. The friends of everyone involved were shocked by this unbelievable story. Andrew, Jean’s husband, has been supportive of Jean throughout this entire situation. He was so inspired by the wonderful story his wife wrote that he came up with the idea to share it with the world and get it published.

Sharing Their Story

After reading his wife’s heartfelt story, he knew that it would touch other people. He told Jean his idea, and she knew that she did have a pretty remarkable story. That’s when she decided to take all her diaries and turn them into a book. Jean convinced Karen and Dennis to be a part of her project and tell the stories from their perspective.

Photograph of their book cover
Source: Amazon

They spoke from their heart as they explained how heartbreaking it was to be torn apart. They also expressed how incredible it was when they all managed to reunite, even though it’s been decades. It was a unique and heartwarming story. The book is called “How Did You Find Me… After All These Years: A Family Memoir.”

Love and Fame

Andrew’s prediction was right. The book was published and became a huge success. The story of Dennis and Karen took the world by storm. The couple went on a book tour all around the United States, where they can tell their story in libraries and bookstores all over America. People were stunned to read a story with so much feeling and emotion.

Karen, Denis, Jean, and her husband sitting at a booth in a restaurant
Source: Facebook

Back when Karen and Dennis were high school kids, they never thought their life would turn out this way. They both found their way back to each other, and the outcome was truly shocking. Jean was also surprised by the sudden fame she got from the book. She said: “It’s a good story, and it is a true story.”

A Story for the Grandchildren

As you can imagine, today, this big family is even closer. They make sure to meet up for dinner each week. They still have to take a step back every once in a while to wrap their head around what their lives have become. Not only do they have an incredible story to tell, but they can also enjoy the fame from the success of their book.

Denis, Karen, Jean, and her husband on vacation
Source: Facebook

The family keeps getting bigger. In a recent interview, Karen confirmed, “We now have five children, nine grandchildren. And five great-grandchildren.” The entire family is grateful for their opportunity to share their story, and are excited to keep telling the tale for generations to come as the family continues to grow.