April 21, 1996 in City

Mother Discovers Her Long-Lost Child Within Arm’s Reach

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Lynn Stempniak always wondered what happened to the baby boy she gave up for adoption more than two decades ago on the West Side of the state.

As it turns out, she probably passed him on her way to class.

In one of those lightning bolts of fate, Lynn learned recently that she and her long-lost son, John Kraemer, both attend Spokane Falls Community College.

“There is a God,” said an exuberant Lynn, 43, throwing an arm around the strapping ex-Marine during a tearful reunion.

“It’s just unreal. I never dreamed John could be right under my nose.”

Lynn is a 4.0 student majoring in social services. John takes liberal arts classes and hopes of someday becoming a sports announcer.

Both commute to school: Lynn from Newport, John from Sprague when he isn’t staying with friends in Spokane.

That these two are related is apparent at a casual glance. John and Lynn are tall, large-boned and share striking almond-shaped eyes.

“I’m still pretty stunned,” concedes John, 25. “I’m happy, but I guess I’m a little bit immune to the emotion.”

That they found each other is a credit to the investigative skills of Sharon Lucky, an adoption search consultant who apparently is as good as her last name indicates.

“I like the term ‘Super Sleuth,”’ says the Davenport woman, issuing a hearty laugh.

In December, Lynn was referred to Lucky and asked the investigator to conduct a formal search for John. Adoption consultants are licensed and can obtain court orders to examine confidential records.

Lucky tracked John to Arizona, where he was vacationing with a friend. She sent him a release form. He signed it, agreeing to let Lynn know where he was.

They met for the first time on April 8, in the Student Union Building at the community college. Lynn hugged her son and gave him a teddy bear mascot of the school.

“This is the kind of thing you see on Oprah,” says Jo Wakefield, who watched the two first meet. “And it happened right here at Spokane Falls.”

Over the years, Lynn often considered locating John even though she had little to go on and couldn’t even remember the names of the people who adopted him.

She once called a national television talk show, but failed to interest anyone in her search. One group specializing in adoption cases wanted $500 before it would start looking.

“There were times when I thought of giving up, but I couldn’t,” she says. “This was an empty hole in my life. John is my first-born son.”

John, too, often wondered about his roots. He had an old photograph of Lynn, but no real memories. John says he wants to get to know his newfound relatives, but harbors no illusions.

“Adoption is a good thing,” he says, “As far as I’m concerned, the people who raised me are my real parents.”

That would be Hugh and Evelyn Kraemer of Sprague. Hugh is retired from the Washington Department of Transportation. Evelyn last year was named Sprague’s Citizen of the Year.

In the early 1970s, the couple lived in Shelton, Wash., when they became John’s foster parents and later adopted him when Lynn relinquished custody.

Lynn, also living in Shelton at the time, says she was 17 when she had her baby. She found herself in an abusive relationship and grossly unprepared to cope with motherhood. “I was a child myself,” she adds sadly.

Lynn doesn’t like to talk about those dark times.

She later married, moved to Newport and had three other children. Lynn has no regrets about the adoption and has nothing but kind words for the Kraemers.

“They took him in and loved him,” she says. “But I always loved him, too, and never stopped thinking about him.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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