Couple was torn apart as teens, reunite after 53 years and find long-lost daughter

Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 5:17 AM EST
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NORTHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) - A teenaged couple was torn apart for more than 50 years after a pregnancy and adoption, but they managed to find each other again then went on a search for the little girl they had to give up.

Denny and Karen Vinar were teenagers when they fell in love, and in 1961, it seemed like the two would be together forever.

“I only lived two blocks from the school, so he would walk me home after school practically every day,” Karen Vinar said.

After more than 50 years apart, Denny and Karen Vinar are making up for lost time with their...
After more than 50 years apart, Denny and Karen Vinar are making up for lost time with their daughter, Jean Voxland (center), whom they had to give up for adoption in the 1960s.(Source: Family photos, WCCO via CNN)

“After the football games or basketball games, she’d be waiting up there all for me,” Denny Vinar.

But life threw the teenagers a curveball when 15-year-old Karen found out she was pregnant. Her family took her to a home for unwed mothers. Denny only got to visit a couple times, including the day their baby girl was born. The two held their daughter for about an hour before giving her up for adoption.

“We had a photograph taken of her, and that was the last of our memories of her,” Karen Vinar said.

After returning home from the military, Denny proposed to Karen, who said yes, but her family wanted her to get an education instead. Torn apart, the two lived different lives in different parts of the country for the better part of 53 years.

“No, I never stopped thinking about her. She had, I say, a corner of my heart. She was always there,” Denny Vinar said.

Finally, in 2014, curiosity got the better of Denny Vinar, who did an online search for Karen. He found her and left a message at her workplace in Everett, Washington.

“I called back immediately and said, ‘How did you find me?’” Karen Vinar said.

The two talked nonstop, like time had never passed. Then, Denny flew out to see Karen.

“It was just magic. She got out of the car and ran around, and she jumped on me and said, ‘Babe, you’re home,’” Denny Vinar said.

“It did feel like nothing much had changed, including his dimples when he smiled and his sparkling eyes,” Karen Vinar said.

They got married 36 hours later and settled down in the Twin Cities. But life wasn’t complete – not yet.

“One day, he said, ‘Karen, it took me this long to find you. My life would be complete if we could find our daughter,’” Karen Vinar said.

The Vinars worked with Lutheran Social Services to try and find their daughter, Jean Voxland. The adoption agency sent her a letter that she initially dismissed, but luckily, her husband read it.

“One day, I came home from work, and he said, ‘I think you better sit down.’ In the whole 30-some years of our marriage, he had never told me ‘I think you need to sit down,’” Voxland said.

Once Voxland knew her biological parents were trying to find her, they began exchanging letters until one day in May 2016 when they decided to meet.

“When he [Denny] walked through the door and I looked at him, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Because I’ve never, ever looked like anybody,” Voxland said. “And now, I do.”

The Vinars and Voxland have since formed their own family. Voxland has gotten to meet her half-siblings from the Vinars’ previous marriages, and the couple has developed a bond with her family. They’re making up for lost birthdays, lost holidays and lost time, thanks to a love that just wouldn’t quit.

“The love we have for each other is absolutely second to none. Even today, it’s so strong. It’s unbelievable,” Denny Vinar said.

Copyright 2021 WCCO via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.