Becky Stock of Brainerd will receive a special Valentine Saturday that she's been waiting 27 years for -- a reunion with her birth father.
Stock, who was adopted when she was a month old, found her birth father last month by plugging his name into an Internet search engine. She had been searching for him on and off for most of her adult life. Stock found her birth mom, Janet, who lives in Maple Lake, when she was 19. Their reunion was a happy event and the two women have developed a close relationship.
Stock's adoptive parents, Jim Stock, of Alberta, and Sharon Stock, of Morris, have been supportive of their daughter's searches for her birth parents, she said. She and her younger brother are both adopted.
Stock moved to Brainerd about 1 1/2 years ago from Fergus Falls, along with her 6-year-old son, Jaden. Little did she know that while she lived in Fergus Falls for 3 1/2 years, her birth father, Larry Winterfeldt, and his family at the time owned a resort in Detroit Lakes, a mere 45 minutes away.
"I've thought about her quite often the past 27 years," Winterfeldt said Thursday by phone from his home in Detroit Lakes.
Winterfeldt, now 45, said he and Janet were simply too young to properly raise Stock, who was born Kristy Jo Johnson on Sept. 23, 1976, in Owatonna. He was 18 and Janet was 16 when she was born. Winterfeldt said Stock was loved, that he and Janet had the best of intentions trying to raise her, but they were too young and didn't have the support to make the situation work.
At the time, he said the county pushed adoption and they were led to believe it was the only solution.
The day that county social workers and a police officer arrived at the teenage couple's door to take their 1-month-old baby, placing her in foster care for three months, remains a painful memory. He and Janet broke up about a month later.
"It was one of the toughest days I've ever had," said Winterfeldt. "It has affected my entire life. The biggest problem I had all these years is what happened to her? Is she all right? Is she happy? You just never know. There was a really big emptiness and you're left really wondering what happened and with all the guilt."
Stock grew up in Cold Spring and Morris. She now lives in Brainerd with her son and works as a receptionist/graphic artist at Bang Printing. She discovered Winterfeldt's name and what turned out to be an old address for him on the Internet and mailed him a letter in early January.
Winterfeldt walked to his mailbox Jan. 12 to retrieve the mail. It contained mostly bills and junk mail, but a letter from Becky Stock of Brainerd caught his attention. It was postmarked Jan. 5, but had taken awhile to reach Winterfeldt because he and his wife, Cindy, had sold their resort and moved. He read the letter before he got into the house, which explained that Stock was looking for her birth father and wondered if it might be him.
"I was just shocked," said Winterfeldt. "I was happy to hear from her. I was relieved. I had a million questions. I walked in the house and I gave the letter to my wife. I didn't know what to say. I was extremely, extremely, happy."
Winterfeldt immediately sent Stock an e-mail, and the two have practically become e-mail pen pals, writing two to three times a day. They've e-mailed photos as well. Winterfeldt said he tried many times to find Stock over the years but was unsuccessful.
They decided weeks ago that they would meet on Valentine's Day, a weekend when Winterfeldt's children could come home and meet their birth sister. Winterfeldt and his wife have two sons together, Chris, 16, and Joseph, 17, and Winterfeldt has two daughters from a previous marriage, Crystal, 18, and Gail, 22. Cindy also has a daughter, Jeannie, 25, from a previous marriage.
Everyone is anxious to meet Stock. Winterfeldt was so excited to find out he was now a grandfather that he sent Jaden a huge box of toys and games.
Stock and Winterfeldt decided that they wouldn't talk on the phone, but would wait until Saturday to talk in person to make the reunion even more special. Instead, they've been e-mailing back and forth.
Stock said her family is happy for her that she found her birth father. She said she recently called her dad just to remind him that he will always, and forever, be her dad. Winterfeldt said he was happy to learn that she was raised by loving and caring parents.
"I know I couldn't have done better myself, not at the time," he said. "Now things are different. A few years later, things were different. It makes a tremendous difference."
Stock said she was raised knowing she was adopted and knew the young ages of her birth parents. She also knew they kept her for a month before giving her up for adoption. She always knew they tried.
Stock said she recently ended a long-term relationship and couldn't imagine a better way to spend Valentine's Day than with Winterfeldt, his wife and children. Her son also will be making the trip to Detroit Lakes with her.
"I'm really scared," said Winterfeldt, of their Saturday reunion. "I don't know why. I'm not a very emotional person. People that know me would say that. With her, it's completely different. This little girl has just destroyed me. Sometimes I even have trouble typing her letters. It's going to be an emotional time, there's no doubt about that."
"I'm going to bawl my eyes out on Saturday, but they'll be happy tears," said Stock. "I've never had any sisters, so this is exciting. It's like a gap has been filled. It brings closure. I can find out stories about things that happened when I was born. It's such a nice feeling that he thought of me for so long."
"I just couldn't imagine spending Valentine's Day any other way than with someone missing from my life for so long," she added.
Winterfeldt said he is proud of Stock, for putting herself through college and raising a son as a single parent.
"What's nice is I closed a chapter in my life that has always been opened and I've opened up a new book," said Winterfeldt. "Twenty-seven years doesn't even matter. Yeah, I missed a lot but the important thing is she contacted me and wants to spend time with me. And I'm looking forward to spending time with Jaden. We've got plenty of time. I'm not 80 or 90 years old. It's really exciting."
Stock works as a receptionist/graphic artist at Range Printing in Brainerd.
This File Modified On 02/13/2004
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