West Fargo man reunited with birth family after sending DNA sample to 23 and Me
It began with the simple DNA ancestry website 23 and Me. It ended with a reunion that's better than any Hallmark show out there.
WEST FARGO — This Christmas miracle story started on a local golf course. For a West Fargo man, the discovery of a family he never knew was there — even though they have been trying to find him for decades.
Don Lazorenko still finds it hard to believe a call he took while playing golf at Osgood Golf Course recently was real.
The call was from Zach Lee in Des Moines, Iowa, who said a 23 and Me ancestry test showed that the two were related.
"Believe it or not, I was like, 'We hooked up on 23 and Me, and I think you are my uncle,' and he was thinking I was some scam artist trying to get his credit card number," Lee recalled.
"I thought something is going to ring up, saying, 'For $99.99 you can find out who this is,'" Lazorenko said.
A few more questions confirmed the call was genuine.
Lazorenko had found his entire biological family in just a few moments. His mom, dad, brother and sister.
Those moments of visiting 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 has been missing."
Lazorenko, still on the golf course, texted back, "I would love to give you all big hugs."
A few seconds later he received a picture of his biological mom, and a picture of a brother that looks like him.
Lazorenko responded saying, "This is wild. This is for real, right?"
He says that after the conversation, he went into the bar and had a drink.
In the 1960s, Linda Ervin was in high school in Iowa when she became pregnant with Lazorenko. Her boyfriend and future husband, Bob Ervin, was headed to Vietnam.
"Back in those days, if you got pregnant — I kept it secret for 7 months," Linda Ervin recalled. "I went to a home for unwed mothers for two months."
"But (Lazorenko) was very loved," Ervin said." (...) I kissed him goodbye when I gave him up, I watched him through a window with his new parents picking him up — (a) very sad day for me, very, very sad."
Lazorenko came to West Fargo 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.
He and his newly found family spoke via a Zoom call that night.
"(It was) mind blowing, there was a lot of tears shedding through both sides of the screen," Lazorenko said. "It was just unreal."
Days later, Lazorenko and his family made a trip to Iowa and met the parents who had been looking for him for years.
"We were there at the doorstep and they said, 'Come on in,' and it's just like we knew each other."
"Because my mother and I forever thought he'd come knocking at our door," Linda Ervin said. "Because we'd been looking for him forever, and so I finally got the knock on the door, but it was after the fact, it was God sent."
It was a grand party.
"They were so welcoming," said Paige Lazorenko, Don's daughter. "They were so excited and so happy. Loving, caring, wanting to be a part of his life."
It 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 Lazorenko's birthday.
"My dad doesn't cry and my mom walked down the hall (...) (and was) like, 'What's going on — we have to tell them.'" recalled Don Lazorenko's biological brother, Chad Ervin. "So my sister was here — just us four — and they came back and said, 'You have a biological brother.' So we heard the whole story."
That revelation sparked a flurry of events to find him.
"So, I thought I was going to find him in the telephone book somehow, some way," said Lazorenko's biological sister, Keri Lee. "It was crazy, I'm like, 'I gotta find him, I gotta find him tonight, we gotta meet him.'"
"They want to see me and they loved me, like my mother says, she didn't want to give me up," Lazorenko said. "It was just because the fact is back in the 60s, that's the way it was."
Now, there will be holidays together as well as family reunions. Christmas this year will be all the more meaningful for these people separated for so long, now brought together as family.