For more than six decades, Boca Raton, Florida woman Joanne Loewenstern, 79, had been searching for her birth mother, whom she had always believed to be alive despite the fact she was told that her mother had died shortly after giving birth to her. Last week, she was proven correct after meeting her mother, now 100-years-old, who had likewise been told that the baby girl she gave birth to in 1938 had died.
According to a report from the Washington Post, Loewenstern was 16-years-old when she discovered that she was adopted, and was informed that her birth mother had died after giving birth to her at Bellevue Hospital in the Bronx. At that time, she was aware of the hospital where she was born in, that her mother’s name was Lillian Feinsilver, and that she was adopted at 2-months-old by her foster parents. Through it all, Loewenstern had a lingering feeling that her mother was actually alive and wanted to find out what happened to her, even as her husband, much like her foster parents, didn’t understand why she needed to find this out.
At some point, Joanne Loewenstern “gave up” on her search for her birth mother, after hiring a private detective didn’t yield any results. She told the Washington Post that it was a sad experience for her, as she “felt [she] didn’t belong in anyone’s circle,” but she had nonetheless moved on and acknowledged that she was “done” searching.
Years later, Joanne Loewenstern’s daughter-in-law Shelley, who is married to her son Elliot, suggested that she sign up to Ancestry.com and submit her DNA for analysis. At that time, Loewenstern was already 79-years-old and was spending a lot of time watching TLC’s Long Lost Family, a series that focuses on people reconnecting with loved ones whom they had spent years searching for. She decided to act on her daughter-in-law’s advice, in hopes of “[getting] just as lucky as the people on TLC,” as the Washington Post noted.
“She was in pain and I could see it. She was always saying I don’t know where I’m from,” Shelley Loewenstern related, as quoted by WPTV.
Not long after her mother-in-law submitted her DNA, Shelley got an email sent through Ancestry.com, from a man named Sam Ciminieri who said that Lillian Feinsilver, now Lillian Ciminieri, was his mother, and was alive. He told Shelley that his mother, now 100-years-old, was located just about 80 minutes away in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where she was living in an assisted living facility. Later on, Ciminieri’s ex-wife, who still cared for her former mother-in-law, told the Loewenstern family that Lillian would often say the same thing repeatedly, that she had “lost her daughter.”
Additionally, Sam Ciminieri’s ex-wife reportedly told Shelley Loewenstern that Lillian was an unwed single mother in 1938 and that her newborn was “taken from her without her knowledge,” leading her to think that her daughter had died.
“Both of them went through life thinking the other had died,” Shelley told the Washington Post.
Considering the advanced ages of both Joanne Loewenstern and Lillian Ciminieri, their respective children arranged for both women to meet at the assistant living facility where the latter lived. That meeting took place on June 24, and while things were “awkward” at first, with both sides not knowing what to say to each other, Ciminieri eventually recognized the daughter whom she thought she had lost eight decades ago. The women spent most of that afternoon bonding and connecting with each other, taking a picture together for the first time in close to 80 years.
“This had gone on for so many years. I felt like I came this far, and I looked at her and I was very, very happy,” said Joanne Loewenstern.
As Lillian Ciminieri is now 100-years-old and suffering from dementia, she hardly remembers anything from 1938, and, as WPTV noted, that could mean her long-lost daughter might never know the real reason behind their separation. However, Joanne Loewenstern believes that her experience could be an inspiration to other people with biological parents they haven’t seen in years, as they “shouldn’t be afraid” to find their roots.