Edward R. Murrow Award Entry for Excellence in Feature Reporting

Published: Feb. 6, 2018 at 4:28 PM EST
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Long lost son helps bring together high school sweethearts after decades apart

It was 1965 and freshman cheerleader Karen Waterfill had senior basketball star Roger Caldwell under her charm.

"She was the prettiest girl in school, and she was nice," Roger recalled. "We'd get kind of friendly on the bus."

But youthful passion has a way of turning into adult responsibilities.

"We made up a story that I was away entertaining the troops in Haiti," Karen said.

Karen was really in Lexington, at a home for unwed mothers. She says she never had a chance to tell Roger goodbye, or that he was going to be a father.

"Mother was very religious, and she just couldn't believe that I had done something like this," Karen said.

Roger said, "Her mother told me I couldn't see her anymore."

It's not how they were torn apart, but instead, their reunion that brings it all together. In comes Mark Kitts.

"I really wanted to find her and thank her," Kitts said. "Tell them how grateful I was for my life. I've had a great life."

Twenty-five years after his birth mother gave him up for adoption, gratitude filled his heart. That mother was Karen Caldwell.

Mark found Karen in 1991. Then, Karen called Roger.

"I left a message," she said.

Roger recalled that moment. "The salesman looks at me and says 'What's wrong with you? It looks like you've seen a ghost.' I said, 'You don't know how close you are!'"

That phone call would bring the separated lovers back together again.

Karen said, "I tried to find happiness but I told these men, you know, there's a man out there that I will always love."

"I drove by her house several times. I didn't want to disturb her or interfere," Roger described.

So when they finally came face to face again, for the first time since high school, they didn't hold back. Not only did they get to see each other, but they also met their son.

"Mark had kind of joked around the first time we all got together and he said well if you two ever want to get married, jokingly, he said I'll be more than happy to perform the ceremony," Roger said.

"We really weren't getting back together, we were just carrying on from where we'd been 25 years earlier."

That offer that planted a seed. About three weeks after they said hello, they said 'I do' with their long-lost son, Mark, performing the ceremony.

That marriage has lasted 26 years.

Roger said, "The good Lord doesn't promise you he's going to give you everything you want. But he'll give you everything you need. And we've got everything we need. We've got each other."

A made-for-TV movie, "Our Son, the Matchmaker," aired on CBS in the mid-90s and was inspired by their real-life romance.