Adopted Parkite reunites with birth mother after 52 years
Parkite David Greenholtz always knew he was adopted as a baby, openly discussing with his adoptive parents how he joined their family. But, sometimes he still wondered which of his birth parents he more resembled — his mom or his dad.
Greenholtz’s family was even curious what his birth parents were like and where his unwavering optimism came from. Growing up, he had a dysfunctional relationship with his adoptive mother, who suffered from alcoholism and mental illness. She never really connected with him on a maternal level.
“I’m a happy guy, but I had a lot of hardship and my family always wondered how I was still so optimistic all the time,” he said. “They wanted to see where I got my genes from. A lot of people in my family wanted to know.”
All Greenholtz, 52, knew about his birth mother was that she was from Ohio and had been around 18 when she had him. He was born in Florida and then moved to New Jersey the day after his birth, but birth records were hard to come by in New Jersey up until about two years ago.
Greenholtz had attempted to access the records over the years, especially after his adoptive dad died in 1985. But, he had also heard stories from adopted children looking for their parents with mixed results.
“I just figured I’d wait and see if something happened,” he said.
And something did happen over the summer.
Greenholtz submitted his DNA to an online database on a whim after his girlfriend, Heather Elliott, began looking into her ancestry. He found out he had a 99.9 percent match with someone else in the database.
“I was shocked and unsure,” he said. “I started looking into it more and it only gives you the initials. At this point I had found out my birth name was Froelich, so I did a Google search and I didn’t even have to call her. I knew she was my mom. It was immediate. Everything matched up.”
‘I was absolutely heartsick’
Claire Critzer describes herself at 18 as “crazy insane in love.” The Cleveland native was just a year out of high school in 1965 and engaged to be married. She unexpectedly found out she was pregnant around the same time her fiancé was drafted to Vietnam.
Critzer knew her conservative parents would have kicked her out of the house if they knew she was expecting a child out of wedlock, so she decided to move in with a friend in Miami. She figured adoption was the only option because she was unemployed with no money, car or prospects.
“I was just 18 and a year out of high school and heartbroken,” she said. “I had no place to turn except to place him up for adoption. I was absolutely heartsick.”
The only detail Critzer knew about her son was that his adoptive parents were going to name him David. She said she has no other memories of that time.
“I was just clueless,” she said. “I was very young and naïve and I didn’t have anyone with me. I was all alone during this process.”
But, she never stopped thinking about her baby boy.
Online DNA tests reveals more than ethnicity
Critzer submitted her DNA to an online database in 2016 to learn more about her family’s genealogy. While she knew there was a possibility it could lead to her son, she had also accepted decades before that he belonged to someone else.
“In my head I was not to intrude on a life that he had been given,” she said.
After Greenholtz found his birth mother, he sent her a note. He didn’t hear back from her until about two weeks later on his daughter’s birthday — June 8. She had gotten the letter.
Critzer called Greenholtz immediately after opening the letter and left him a message since he didn’t answer. He called her back within a couple of hours.
“When we talked during that first conversation, it was fascinating,” he said. “It’s so emotional. You hold back tears just talking about. I never had that connection with my adoptive mother so it was the first time to be loved by a mom. That is what it really boiled down to.”
Greenholtz and Critzer arranged to meet in late June at an outdoor mall in Miami.
Critzer said she was sitting at an outdoor table when she looked up and saw this “huge, tall man looking at me” with a cartoon-like grin on his face.
“I’m sure my mouth was just hanging open,” she said. “I was star struck. We just talked and talked. It was just mind blowing. I could hear his lips moving and he was talking, but it washed over me. It was just right out of a movie. I just kept thinking it was the most amazing experience ever and that God had opened up a door for me to go through or not. I just ran through it with open arms.”
Critzer hadn’t told most of her family, including her 43-year-old daughter, about Greenholtz. She has spent the last couple of months filling in the details for those closest to her.
Greenholtz said he sympathized with what Critzer went through. But, he doesn’t regret his situation. “No matter what I’ve gone through — through battling cancer or divorce — I would not change my life,” he said. “I would be a completely different person.”
‘It’s like a puzzle’
Greenholtz and Critzer talk on the phone weekly since reconnecting. She is planning to visit him in Park City on Oct. 10 for his 53rd birthday — their first together since his birth. Members of both his adoptive and birth families are planning to attend.
Greenholtz’ aunt, Harriet, said the reunion has been on her bucket list. Harriet Greenholtz said she and her sister-in-law Charlotte Adler Wernick were instrumental in supporting Greenholtz after his adoptive dad passed. But, she knew there was someone else out there to be a parent to him.
“David is an exceptional and unique person, and I always felt like he deserved to have a family,” she said. “I think he is wonderful in spite of all the adversity in his life. I always felt like he had a wonderful natural mother who gave birth to this wonderful guy.”
Critzer said she feels like a little kid the night before a holiday as she waits to visit Greenholtz. She said their relationship has felt natural and never awkward. But, she understands if it’s been difficult for Greenholtz.
“I’ve loved him for 52 years, but he’s only known me for a couple of months,” she said.
Greenholtz said neither he nor Critzer has an agenda. He doesn’t have a vision for the future between them.
“I kind of look at it like a giant puzzle,” he said. “It’s all framed in and there are a lot of pieces. You take one piece at a time to fill in and for some people it takes one day. But, for others it takes a long time. I think it will just continue to be a great experience.”
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