Thanksgiving reunion 50 years in the making, birth mother and son reunite

Millions of people travel to be with loved ones on Thanksgiving, but one St. Joseph family's holiday reunion was 50 years in the making.

Posted: Nov 28, 2019 2:13 PM
Updated: Nov 28, 2019 2:23 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Millions of people travel, whether by air or by vehicle, to be with loved ones on Thanksgiving, but one St. Joseph family's holiday reunion was 50 years in the making.

After landing at MCI in Kansas City on Wednesday evening, Judy Adler was welcomed by her son, Curtis Zahnd, for their first Thanksgiving holiday together. 

"Not everybody gets to have two moms. It's very cool. Very blessed," Zahnd said. 

Just 20 days following his birth, Curtis and his sister were adopted. And, after finding some family of her own through Ancestry DNA, Zahnd said his sister gifted him the same DNA test kit for Christmas about two years ago.

"It sat on the counter really for a couple of years before we did anything," Zahnd said. "I don't know why I didn't do it for so long. It was just one of those things that we finally knew that it was time."

With the help of a family friend and his wife, Beth, Zahnd said he completed the Ancestry kit and sent it in. It took about six to eight weeks for the results, and before it actually came back with not one, but two possible matches. 

However, while this was happening, Gov. Jay Nixon passed the Missouri Adoptee Rights Act that made it legal for adopted Missourians to have access to their original birth certificates if they're 18 or older. Curtis said because of this, he was able to receive his original birth certificate in the mail and matched the name to the ones that came up through Ancestry.

"It's like Heaven. It's a dream come true," Adler said. "I mean, nobody would have thought that this would ever happen. You know, things like this just don't happen, and they did."

The two first began connecting through letters and eventually by text and phone calls. Then, they met for the first time in Topeka, Kansas, where Adler was introduced to not only her son, but also to her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. 

"He was loved and supported his whole life, but to see the two of them come and get to watch that from the outside it's just been incredible," Beth Zahnd said. 

And their children, excited to watch their father's story wrap up with a happy ending.

"Both of them have been so touched watching their dad experience such joy, but they have also just loved accepting Judy into our family and calling her grandma and meaning it with their whole heart," Beth Zahnd said. 

On Thursday, the family sat around the table and shared their first Thanksgiving meal together, while looking forward to experiencing so many more in the future.

"I'll be honest with you, if somebody told me today six months ago that I was going to be sitting in my son's house on Thanksgiving Day I would have laughed in their faces, but I woke up this morning and that's where I'm at," Adler said.

Zahnd added that none of this would have been possible if it hadn't been for Ancestry and his adopted family, whom he loves and is extremely grateful for every single day.

"If you know somebody who has to, or if you ever have to give up a baby for any reason I think that adoption is the answer," Zahnd said. "I thank [Judy] for giving me that opportunity to be accepted by another family because I had a great childhood - my mom was a rockstar."

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