Adopted 80-year-old spent decades thinking her birth mother was dead until she learns she’s not

July 7, 2018 1:25 pm, Last Updated: July 7, 2018 4:36 pm

For many adopted children, there’s always a lingering question of who their birth parents are. Some people spend their whole lives trying to trace back their biological roots, unraveling a mystery of where they came from.

After a lifetime of wondering, one woman finally uncovered a family secret—leading to a heartwarming reunion in Florida that shows some things are better late than never.

Back in 1964, 16-year-old Joanne Loewenstern learned a shocking story about her parentage:

She was adopted—and her birth mother was dead.

“I was told two days after I was born, my mother died,” Loewenstern told WPTV.


While she was always told her birth mother died in a Bronx hospital back in 1938, for decades she always had a hunch she wasn’t being told the truth.

“I had a feeling she was alive somehow,” Loewenstern told The Washington Post. “I just felt that I didn’t believe it for some reason.”

Whether or not her biological mother was actually alive, she wanted to find out more about her.

She only had a name to go on: Lillian Feinsilver. With no other information, she struggled for decades to find more info, even hiring a private detective. When all efforts came up short, she gave up hope.

“I said, ‘You know what, I’m done,’” Loewenstern said. “Sure, I cried, because you know, I felt like I didn’t belong in anyone’s circle, and that was it.”

Loewenstern is now 80 years old, living in Boca Raton, Florida. But even after she gave up her search, her loved ones knew she was still yearning for the truth.

“She was in pain and I could see it,” daughter-in-law Shelley Loewenstern told WPTV. “She was always saying I don’t know where I’m from.”


So Shelley set up an account on, hoping that advancements in genealogy services would be able to help trace Joanne’s roots.

Miraculously, the plan worked. Shelley got a match from another site user named Samson Ciminieri, and sent him a message.

“She asked me if I knew a Lillian Feinsilver,” Ciminieri said.

“I said yes, that’s my mother.”

Loewenstern finally found her birth mother—and even more incredibly, she was still alive!

Her mother, Lillian Ciminieri, is 100 years old, living in an assisted living facility in Port St. Lucie—not far from Boca. All this time, the mother and daughter had been alive, living in the same state.

After 80 years apart, the two were finally reunited—and Loewenstern knew her long search was really over.

“I look like her, the eyes … I knew that she was my mother,” she said.

(Facebook/Elliot Loewenstern)

It’s a mystery how, exactly, these two were separated back in 1938. Like Loewenstern, Ciminieri has long been under the impression that her daughter was dead. After giving birth out of wedlock, she was told she lost the child.

“Both of them went through life thinking the other had died,” Shelley told the Washington Post.

Today, Ciminieri suffers from dementia, and it took some time for her to understand what was happening. But after some time, she came around:

“This is my daughter,” she said, according to the Post.

(Facebook/Elliot Loewenstern)

It’s tragic that they were separated for so long, but none of that matters now—these two are determined to make up for lost time while they still can, coloring pictures together at Ciminieri’s facility.

“I’m proud,” Loewenstern told WPTV. “This is something I wanted to do all my life.”

“They didn’t get to color together when she was a little girl, but it’s never too late to color with your mom,” Joanne’s son Elliot Loewenstern said.

(Facebook/Elliot Loewenstern)

Loewenstern hopes that her story inspires others to search for their biological parents—no matter how long it may take.

“Children should know that if they want to find their roots, they shouldn’t be afraid to do it,” she said.

She plans to visit her mother as much as possible. As she left the home, she gave her mom a colored picture with a message promising that they wouldn’t be separated again:

(Facebook/Elliot Loewenstern)