Joanne Loewenstern, 80, was adopted as a baby and lived her entire life never knowing her biological mother — until this week.
The best part? Her mother, 100-year-old Lillian Ciminieri, is also still around for the reunion, nearly a century in the making.
On Wednesday, they spent time together coloring a picture at Ciminieri's nursing home.
It was only their second time ever spending time together. They take no time together for granted.
“They didn’t get to color together when she was a little girl, but it’s never too late to color with your mom,” Elliot Loewenstern, Joanne’s son, said.
Loewenstern's family knew how badly she wanted to know about her past.
“Many nights I sat and cried, believe me,” Loewenstern said.
She was 16-years-old when she found out she was adopted.
“1964 I found out I was adopted ...I was told two days after I was born, my mother died.”
But, even if she wasn’t alive, Loewenstern wanted to know more about her mother.
Her daughter-in-law, Shelley Loewenstein, decided to take a chance and created an Ancestry.com account about a year ago.
“She was in pain and I could see it. She was always saying I don’t know where I’m from,” Shelley Loewenstern said.
She knew it was a long shot since they did not have much information to go on.
“All she remembered was her mother’s birth name,” Shelley Loewenstern said.
Fortunately, that was enough.
Samson Ciminieri recently created an Ancestry.com account, too.
Shelley Loewenstern got a message that she got a "hit" and reached out to Samson Ciminieri.
"She asked me if I knew a Lillian Feinsilver. I said yes, that’s my mother,” Samson Ciminieri said.
Feinsilver was Lillian Ciminieri's maiden name.
“Without his DNA, we wouldn’t have found her,” Shelley Loewenstern said.
The two quickly decided to meet.
Joanne Loewenstern not only met her mother for the first time about a week ago, she also learned she had a half-brother — Samson Ciminieri.
But, the family’s mystery wasn't over.
Joanne Loewenstern’s mother, Lillian, was clearly never dead as she was told to believe.
Lillian Ciminieri's caretaker, Rose Marie Ciminieri, said Lillian Ciminieri told her a story about a daughter she "lost."
“She had the baby in the hospital. She said the baby died,” Rose Marie Ciminieri said.
Lillian Ciminieri never mentioned knowing she gave a child up for adoption.
‘I think I’m the little girl that she lost,” Joanne Loewenstern said.
Now, they know both are alive. Their relationship is unquestionable.
“I look like her, the eyes … I knew that she was my mother,” Joanne Loewenstern said.
Why they were truly separated, Joanne Loewenstern might never know. Lillian Ciminieri's memory from 1938 is foggy.
But now, they focus on making the most of their time left together.
“I'm proud. This is something I wanted to do all my life. Now, I’m through,” Joanne Loewenstern said.
She also wants to inspire other adopted families, to seek answers if they want them.
“Children should know that if they want to find their roots, they shouldn’t be afraid to do it.”
Another part of the story that amazes the families is how close they live to each other after all these years.
Joanne Loewenstern lives in Boca Raton. Lillian Ciminieri lives in Port St. Lucie.
Joanne Loewenstern and her family hope to visit Lillian as much as possible, potentially on the weekends.