He Went Looking for His Mother …. And Found a Family 

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Jason Reckamp and Karen Harty at their first meeting in 44 years. - COURTESY​ OF​ KAREN HARTY
  • COURTESY​ OF​ KAREN HARTY
  • Jason Reckamp and Karen Harty at their first meeting in 44 years.

Like Harty, Lownsdale had long hoped his oldest son would come calling someday. He also counted the birthdays every Veterans Day. He thought maybe after the boy turned eighteen he would hear from him, but the decades passed and he began to assume they would never meet.

"I figured for, I guess, the last ten years that it wasn't going to happen," he says.

He was in the Army by the time Jason was born. He never saw him and imagines holding the baby and then letting him go must have been gut-wrenching for Harty.

Part of him still thinks they could have made it as parents. He knows the odds were against them. They were so young in 1974, and he concedes it was likely the right call to put him up for adoption. Still, he looks back at his seventeen-year-old self and wonders.

"I'm not so sure it was as right as everyone thinks," he says.

Harty's father, Bruce Piper, brought her to visit Lownsdale at Fort Leonard Wood before Jason was born. Piper left the teens alone for the day so they could talk. Lownsdale remembers it was bitter cold. His options had been limited. He did not have any money, but the Army would house his young family. Even after Harty went home, he was not convinced he wanted to give up the baby. The process required his signature. He went to the Judge Advocate General's office on base to sign the papers but soon turned around.

"It took three trips to get me to sign," he says. "I was very reluctant."

Ultimately, it seemed like there was little he could do. He signed the forms, the baby was born and Lownsdale served his time in the Army. He and Harty lost touch while he was still in the service. He later went on to law school. He is now an attorney and lives in Chesterfield. He has four other kids and says he likes his life. "I don't begrudge anything," he says. "It was all people doing what they thought was best." But he never forgot his firstborn.

Given his profession, he says he is surprised he did not hear about the changes brought about by the Missouri Adoptee Rights Act. When he got a Facebook message from Harty one day, he was stunned.

"I'd been looking and waiting," he says. "I didn't think he'd ever come along."

He and Jason met last fall at Lownsdale's seventeen-year-old son's hockey game.

"I saw him, and it was like I'd known him all my life," Lownsdale says.

Jason had started his search for his mother. Meeting Lownsdale was more unexpected.

"Mom was easy, probably because I've been lacking one for 30 years," he says. With Lownsdale, it was initially "more just two guys hanging out. It was not a bad thing."

As they have talked, Jason has noticed a familiarity in the way they speak and think. Both love hockey and, painfully, the Blues. Jason is working on a novel in his spare time, and Lownsdale has written a couple of unpublished books. "In a lot of ways, it felt like I was talking to myself, at least in my own mind," Jason says.

Jason and Karen Harty with (from ​left​) Carissa Lovelace, Ryan Hoffman and Danielle Robinson. - COURTESY ​OF ​KAREN HARTY
  • COURTESY ​OF ​KAREN HARTY
  • Jason and Karen Harty with (from ​left​) Carissa Lovelace, Ryan Hoffman and Danielle Robinson.

Now that Jason has found his biological mother, new worlds have opened up.

He has three half siblings on Harty's side and four on Lownsdale's. He is still tabulating the number of new nieces and nephews. He has met Harty's father, his grandfather Bruce Piper, who used to be a hockey referee.

"He's a firecracker," Jason says. "He's 91, and I bet he could probably still put on skates and play."

He had always assumed vaguely that his roots spread beyond just his mother, but their nature and direction offer endless surprises and fascinations with each new introduction. He and his newly discovered relatives are moving gingerly after so much time apart. Separately, each says they are cautious not to come on too strong. It is a balance between making up for decades of lost time and also building new relationships among virtual strangers.

"We're like, 'Join the family!'" says Harty's oldest daughter, 32-year-old Carissa Lovelace. "But you want to respect that he has his own family that he's grown up with."

Out of all the half siblings he has met so far, Lovelace may be the most like Jason. Their relatives describe both as deep thinkers who consider their words before speaking. But Harty also sees similarities with other family members. Her youngest daughter Danielle is funny like Jason. Her son Ryan now spends Blues games texting back and forth with his older brother.

As for Harty, she still has only seen Jason in person about a half-dozen times, but they continue to text and talk on the phone, sometimes for hours. The relationship is still new.

"I hope that continues to grow," she says. "I pray that it continues to grow."

Patterson, who made the first contacts between Jason and each parent, has watched him slowly lower his defenses, probably for the first time in his life.

"I'm a little surprised how much he has thrown himself into this," she says. "I'm happy for him."

Patterson thinks the bond will deepen naturally between Harty and Jason, in part because Harty's outgoing nature will overcome his passive personality. But she worries that Jason's and Lownsdale's personalities are almost too similar and that they will get stuck, each waiting for the other to act first.

"I'm afraid that Jim and Jason are going to miss that," she says.

Jason is not sorry for the way things worked out. He is close with his father, Ray Reckamp, and he still thinks about Judy every day. Still, these new connections help piece together a puzzle 44 years in the making.

Talking to his birth father, he says, "I realized he wanted to do the right thing and take responsibility. I think that's all you can ask from a sixteen-year-old kid."

He and Lownsdale text and call. Neither wants to upend the other's life, but they are eager to get to know each other. In some ways, Lownsdale says, meeting Jason was like meeting a stranger who was also his best friend.

"You're not sure why," he says, "but you're with your family, and you know it."

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