'I was in shock': West Fargo man reunited with entire biological family he'd never met

This time of year, so many of us are making holiday plans with family. But for one West Fargo man, it was a Christmas miracle story that all started on a local golf course.

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Don Lazorenko of West Fargo, lower center in the black shirt, recently found his entire biological family out in Iowa, thanks to 23 and Me and a shocking phone call.
Submitted photo
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WEST FARGO — For a West Fargo man, it was the discovery of a family he never knew was there but had been trying to find him for decades.

It began with the simple DNA ancestry website 23 and Me, and it ended with a reunion that's better than any Hallmark show out there.

Don Lazorenko still finds it hard to believe.

"Just luck," he says.

Lazorenko took a phone call while playing Osgood Golf Course recently. It was from Zach Lee in Des Moines, Iowa, who said a 23 and Me ancestry test showed the two were related.


"I told him, 'Believe it or not, we hooked up on 23 and Me, and I think you are my uncle.' He thought it was a scam artist and I was trying to get his credit card number," Zach Lee, Don's biological nephew said.

"I thought something is going to ring up, for 99-dollars and 99-cents you can find out who this is," Lazorenko said.

Then, a few more questions confirmed it.

"Oh, oh," Lazorenko said. "This is real. I was in shock."

Don had found his entire biological family in just a few moments. His mom, dad, brother and sister. Those moments, via text messages, were priceless.

The Iowa family wrote, "We want to meet you. We are big on family and you are the piece that is missing."

Lazorensko, still on the golf course, texts back: "I would love to give you all big hugs."

Then, a few seconds later, Don receives a picture of his biological mom, then a picture of a brother that looks like him. Don responds, "I'm speechless...this is wild. This is for real, right?"


"I went into the bar and had a drink," Lazorensko said.

A different time for unwed mothers

When Linda Ervin was in high school in Iowa back in the 60's, things were different.

"Back in those days, if you got pregnant, I kept it secret for 7 months. I went to a home for unwed mothers for two months," Linda Ervin, Don's biological mother, said.

She was pregnant with Don. Her boyfriend and future husband Bob was headed to Vietnam.

"He ( the baby) was very loved. I kissed him goodbye when I gave him up. I watched him through a window with his new parents picking him up," Ervin said.

And so, Don came to North Dakota and was raised by a great couple. He tried over the years to find his parents but was unsuccessful...until the phone call that changed everything.

"I wasn't planning on any of was just luck," Lazorensko said.

There was a Zoom call that first night with them all, just hours after Lazorensko got that first call.


"It was mind blowing, a lot of tears. It was just unreal," Lazorensko said.

Days later, Don and his West Fargo family made a trip to Iowa and met the parents who had been looking for him for years.
"We are at the doorstep and they said come on in; it is like we knew each other," Lazorensko said.

"My mother and I forever thought he would come knocking at our door. We had been looking for him forever, and so I finally got the knock at the door, but it was after the fact. It was God sent," Linda Ervin said.

"They were so welcoming and so excited and happy....loving and caring and wanting to be a part of his life," Paige Lazorenko, Don's daughter, said.

Turns out, Don's biological sister and brother didn't learn of their sibling until college, when they found their Dad quietly crying. It was Don's birthday.

"My Dad doesn't cry, and my mom walked down the hall and she was like 'We have to tell them.' My sister was here, and they came back and said, 'You have a biological brother.' We heard the whole story," Don's biological brother, Chad, said.

That sparked a flurry of events to find Don.

"I was on a mission," said Keri Lee, Don's biological sister, said. "I even tried the telephone book, somehow, some way. It was crazy. I was like, we have to find him tonight. We have to meet him. It took a long time; we had private investigator.

"They wanted to see me, and they loved me. Like my mother says, they didn't want to give me up. It was just because in the 60's, that is the way it was," Lazorensko said.

Now, there will be holidays together, reunions. Christmas this year will sure be meaningful. These people separated for so long, now brought together as family, with emotions like they've never been apart.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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