Paul Lavino’s journey began 61 years ago.
Lavino’s life came full circle on Oct. 10, when he met his biological mother, Edythe Widmer, for the first time at an emotional family gathering at St. Luke’s Magic Valley.
Lavino, who was adopted at birth, grew up in Chicago and now lives in Phoenix. He always wondered about his birth mother. From a young age, when he would see women at shopping centers and other public places, he would wonder if one of them might be his mother.
About four years ago, Lavino’s search for his birth mother intensified. After his adoptive father passed away, he found documents that listed his mother’s maiden name. From there, Lavino was able to locate his mother’s yearbook photo. The information showed she had graduated from Twin Falls High School.
His search stalled again, until recently when he found his biological father’s name. Through more investigation, he found a phone number for his sister, Kathy Mitchell.
“I told her, ‘I think you may be my sister,’” Lavino recalled. “She said, ‘I hope we can meet sometime.’ And I said, ‘How about I come out tomorrow? I waited 61 years. I’ve waited long enough.’”
Lavino was reunited with his biological mother and his siblings at St. Luke’s Magic Valley, where Widmer was in the hospital because of an infected leg.
“I think I’ve been in shock,” Lavino said. “When I walked in the room, it didn’t feel weird. It felt natural.”
“I’m very happy that you found me,” Widmer said to Lavino. “I wish I never had to give you away. I’ve regretted it many times, and I love you.”
It was an emotional moment for the entire family. After the tears, a laugh among them broke the silence. And Lavino had completed his circle.
“There was always a piece of a puzzle that was missing in my life,” Lavino said. “I told Edythe that she is that piece of my puzzle. It’s going to change my life.”
Widmer never told anyone that she had a child adopted all those years ago, until recently when she told Mitchell. Lavino has a childhood photo that he has always carried with me, and that same photo was also found in Widmer’s home among thousands of other photographs.
Finding his mother isn’t just sentimental. Lavino said that when he goes to a doctor’s appointment now, he’ll know his family history. It’s information that he’ll be able to pass down to his four children, two of whom are adopted. Regardless of biological ties, his family is strengthened by the shared knowledge.
“There are millions of people that have been adopted,” he said. “The moment that a parent brings that child home, it is an instant bond. It doesn’t matter whether they are blood.”
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.