In December 1936, Camilla Warner reunited with her long-lost son 41 years after he was kidnapped and given away for adoption without her consent. She called it a Christmas miracle made possible by generous strangers across the country who were touched by her story.
In 1895, Warner, just 18-years-old, lost her young husband when he died in an accident. Pregnant with their first child, she worried about how she could provide for her son alone. She was also a new immigrant, having arrived from Denmark just two years earlier. Determined to keep her child, Warner got a job as a waitress and made arrangements with a maternity home to care for the baby while she was at work. In exchange, she promised to work for a year to pay her expenses.
“One day I saw them taking the baby in the office,” she recalled. “He was the prettiest one in the nursery, and people were always wanting to adopt him. They told me they were just showing him to someone.”
When Warner went to pick up her son after work, they told her he’d been taken away by a man in a shiny carriage. A devastated Warner began searching for him vowing that she would never stop. “Nowadays there are kidnapping laws, but then the law of the six-shooter ruled Nebraska, she said. “I spent all the money I had searching for him.”
Weeks turned to months, then years, and finally decades. Warner never gave up hope. She later remarried and moved to California. In December 1936, she had a vivid dream where her son appeared to her. “He had a son with him. I said, ‘what a fine boy’ and my son kissed me,” she said. Later that day Warner found a letter under her doorstep. It included an advertisement placed by a 41-year-old Nebraska man who was searching for his mother and a note that asked, “Am I your son?” It was from Richard Douglas Foster, the baby she hadn’t seen in 41 years. He too had been searching relentlessly for her.
Anxious to reunite, neither of them had the money to make the trip to meet each other. The story was picked up by papers across the country and Canada, and as word spread, “a score of Santa Clauses made their appearance,” donating a railroad ticket, new clothing, and money to make the reunion possible. Camilla left Los Angeles and her son Richard started driving west from Scottsbluff. The two met in Yoder, Wyoming just before Christmas where they tearfully embraced. “From now on,” Warner said, “I will begin to live.” She lived out the final 13 years of her life with the love of her new-found family before passing away in 1949. Richard died two decades later in 1971. His obituary listed the name of his mother thanks to the reunion made possible by their Christmas miracle that occurred 35 years earlier.
Historic newspapers are full of more touching holiday stories like this one. To read more,