Nearly 50 years ago, in Northfield, Minnesota, high school football star Dennis Vehnar met the girl of his dreams.
“She was very special,” Vehnar told KARE 11. “I was always late for football practice because I was walking Karen home. That was much more important, I thought.”
That girl was classmate Karen Lehmann, and she felt exactly the same.
The teenagers fell in love and were soon blessed with news: Lehmann was pregnant with a little girl.
Vehnar immediately proposed marriage. Lehmann was delighted and wanted nothing more than to accept.
But there were two problems with their plans.
But there were two people standing in their way: Lehmann was 15 years old, and her parents were completely against the marriage; they disliked Vehnar and wanted their daughter to go on to college.
So, they sent Lehmann to a home for unwed mothers. When Lehmann’s daughter was born, the baby was immediately adopted out. Lehmann was then allowed to return home.
Vehnar was not about to give up, however. After Lehmann came back, they reunited, against Lehmann’s parents’ wishes, and Vehnar proposed a second time.
Again Lehmann wanted to accept and again Lehmann’s parents were still against the marriage.
“He asked me again to marry him,” Lehmann told KARE 11. “And I was all excited about it at first, until I went home to tell my parents, and they did not approve of that at all.”
Due to her parents’ intervention, the two young lovers were forced to give up their dreams of being together.
Eventually, Vehnar joined the army and Lehmann went on to college. While posted to various parts of the country, Vehnar had tried sending letters to Lehmann, but her father, still against the match, intercepted any and all communication.
“I went through hell to be with her,” Vehnar said. “And we couldn’t.”
For the next 50 years, the two would go on with their separate lives and marry different people.
“I just thought he had forgotten all about me,” Lehmann said. “Because I didn’t hear from him.”
“But I didn’t,” Vehnar replied.
As time went on Vehnar divorced from his wife and Lehmann became widowed.
Then a miracle happened.
Then there was a breakthrough.
In 2014, Vehnar found Lehmann again online. That very next day he called her and in no time at all he proposed for a third time. It would be the last proposal for Vehnar; months later the two were married.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling, it really is,” Vehnar said. “But it was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.”
Their love was consummated by their marriage, but there was one missing piece to their happy family: their long-lost daughter.
So, they wrote to the adoption agency who gave them the information they needed to contact her. Their daughter was named Jean Voxland, and when she finally got the call she was shocked.
“My parents are together and they’re looking for me?” Voxland recalled.
She, like many, could not believe what she was hearing. When she finally met her birth parents, it was a surreal experience.
“I got warm all over and my heart started to pound and the tears just filled my eyes,” Voxland told KARE11. “‘I looked like somebody,’ and I kinda felt like I belonged.”
Both Vehnar and Lehmann were ecstatic, too; after so long apart, their family was finally whole again.
“This is a miracle,” Lehmann told KARE11. “This really is.”