Every December, we invite community members like you to be part of the work we do through our Little Red Stocking Campaign. Your gift helps us unite children with loving, nurturing families through adoption. It also ensures that adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive families receive the support they need before, during, and after placement.
This year, our Little Red Stocking feature story is one of love, separation, and reunion. Dennis and Karen are one of those couples who seem destined to be together, no matter what twists and turns life throws at them.
Dennis & Karen’s Story
Dennis proposed to Karen three times as a love-struck teenager, as a 20-something, and in his 70s.
“Third time’s a charm,” said Dennis. “He’s very persistent,” said Karen.
They were an unlikely couple when they fell in love in 1958. Dennis was 15; Karen 13. He was the star high school athlete in a small town in Minnesota, who admittedly lived “a bit on the wild side.” She was the bookish, quiet girl with the sweet smile who aspired to study interior design in college.
The two dated a few years when Karen discovered she was pregnant. That’s the first time Dennis proposed.
Karen’s parents didn’t approve of them getting married and decided she should give birth at a home for unwed mothers–preferably leaving their rural hometown immediately. Karen insisted on finishing the school year even though her pregnancy soon became apparent. Embarrassed, Dennis’s parents moved their family out of town.
Karen gave birth in August and asked Dennis to come sign the birth certificate. They were both able to hold their daughter before placing her for adoption through Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, now partnered with Children’s Home (CH/LSS).
“From that moment on, the pregnancy was swept under the rug,” said Karen. “I thought of her often, but I knew it was for the best.” Dennis and Karen pursued separate paths, but it wasn’t the end of their love for each other or for their child.
Dennis joined the Army and was stationed in Germany for three years. Karen went to college to study art and design. Dennis tried to keep in touch, but Karen’s father intercepted his letters and phone calls.
When Dennis returned to the States, their romance bloomed again. Dennis proposed a second time. An excited Karen accepted, but again her parents objected. If Karen married Dennis, her father wouldn’t pay for her last year in college. She finished college, moved to Washington state and married. Her husband died in 2010.
Dennis also married. Thirty years later and now divorced, a friend introduced Dennis to LinkedIn, and Dennis searched for Karen’s name. “And there she was, third on the list!”
Fifty years after last seeing Karen, Dennis didn’t want to wait a moment longer; he called her the next day after finding her on LinkedIn.
They called, texted and discussed getting married. “I told Karen this would be the last Christmas we would ever spend apart,” said Dennis. When he arrived in Washington on January 20, 2015, Karen flew into his arms. Dennis proposed the third time. They were married 36 hours later.
Dennis soon broached the subject of finding their daughter. Karen was concerned they might intrude on the privacy of a by-then middle-aged woman and her family. Dennis characteristically persisted. “I said to her, ‘Karen, it took me this long to find you. It would make my life complete if we could find our daughter.’”
“How could I say, ‘No,’?” said Karen.
Dennis and Karen contacted CH/LSS about finding their daughter, Jean. Years earlier Jean had informed our Post Adoption team that she would be open to contact with her biological parents, which expedited the process to connect them.
Sixteen months after marrying and 54 years after the birth of their daughter, Dennis and Karen reunited with Jean at the CH/LSS main office. The moment was overwhelming for everyone in the room.
“We were all crying tears of happiness,” said Karen.
Karen, Dennis and Jean are now part of an extended family that includes Jean’s husband, her three children and five grandchildren, as well as Dennis’s three adult children and Karen’s son from their first marriages.
“Our family is like the mythical bird of Phoenix rising from the ashes,” Karen said. “Christmas holidays will never be the same. Spending it together is the best gift ever.”
Give Now to Support Children & Families
For 130 years, Children’s Home has been making a difference one child, one family, one generation at a time. The Little Red Stocking was established in 1909 to help community members like you be a part of this work. Through the generosity of our donors, we’ve helped more than 30,000 children join loving, permanent families. Visit littleredstockign.org to make your gift today.