Karen's newborn son was adopted by a minister and his wife. Reluctantly Roger left Karen's life. "Her mother said, 'Go away, stay away and never see my daughter again,' " he says. "Later I was afraid to contact her. I didn't want to mess up her life more than I already had."
Over the years Karen, always mourning her son and missing Roger, married three times and had a daughter who is now 22. Roger also married, had two children—and divorced. "I told my wife I really loved someone else," he says. Meanwhile Mark Kitts, the son they had never seen, was growing up. "I've had a very good life," says Mark, 24, a conservative minister now living in Covington, Ky. "I never thought about contacting my birth parents until my wife, Dee Dee, got pregnant. But watching what she has gone through made me want to thank my mother for having me."
At Mark's behest the state human resources department contacted Karen in Frankfort, Ky. Delighted, she agreed to meet him. And, through an old friend, she contacted Roger, whom she had not seen in 25 years. On July 2, Roger, Karen and Mark had a tearful reunion in the human resources office in Versailles, Ky. Karen embraced her son and sobbed. "I never wanted to give you up," she told him. Adds Roger: "We were a little intimidated by this minister stuff, but Mark's just a 24-year-old kid. He's goofy like we are."
Soon after the reunion, Karen visited Roger's home in Tullahoma, Tenn. They were sitting in a friend's boat when he knelt on one knee and proposed. She accepted. And on August 3, Rev. Mark Kitts officiated at his parents' wedding in Covington "Twenty-five years ago," he said during the ceremony, "you became my mother and father. It's only fitting that today I unite you again as my parents."
For Karen Waterfill, now Karen Caldwell, life has come full circle. "I've been mad at the world and living in the past for 25 years," she says. "Not a day's gone by that I haven't thought about this. But now I have the two men I've always wanted most. I never, ever dreamed I could be this happy."
KAREN WATERFILL WAS A 15-YEAR-OLD cheerleader who sang in a gospel group. Roger Caldwell was 18, a basketball star and class valedictorian. Back in 1965 they were the perfect couple at Western High School in Lawrenceburg, Ky. Then Karen became pregnant. "I wanted to keep my baby," Karen says, "but my mother said I'd have to give him up. She was a real Bible-thumper."