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Jim & Kitty Fassel find son they put up for adoption in 1969

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http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~86~1394710,00.html

Parents huddle with son they lost

NFL coach, wife find adopted boy

By Adam Schefter, Denver Post Sports Writer

In the city where the story began, Denver hosted a family reunion this week that is as astonishing as it is heartwarming.

Jim Fassel, coach of the New York Giants, and his wife, Kitty, were reunited with the son, John Mathieson, they placed for adoption in Denver 34 years ago, before the couple married.

The Fassels weren't yet married when Mathieson was born in 1969.

An exhaustive search over several years concluded last week when a Denver caseworker called the Fassels to let them know their son had been located. He was married, a father of four girls, working as a general sales manager at Kuni Lexus in Littleton, living in Highlands Ranch.

And eager to speak to his birthparents.

Sunday, Mother's Day, at 10 a.m. Denver time, the Fassels and Mathieson spoke.

"When we first got him on the phone, I said, 'There are a lot of things we need to talk about, but I can only tell you this,"' recalled Fassel, who introduced himself and his wife to their newfound son by first names only. "I said, 'From our standpoint, this is something that makes us the happiest people in the world. We know now that you're alive. Although we had to make choices back then, we hope you understand that, and that you have been on our minds for 34 years. And I can't tell you how excited we are to finally talk to you."'

The feeling was mutual. Mathieson told the Fassels, "If everybody gets a dream in their life, I guess mine came true."

And then Fassel delivered one more surprise. Ninety minutes into their first talk, Fassel disclosed his last name and his occupation: coach of the National Football League's New York Giants.

"I was like, 'Wow, are you kidding me?"' Mathieson recalled. "Obviously now, that's the least important thing in my mind. But when you first hear it, it takes your brain 10 seconds to process it."

Days later, the rest of the story has not been fully absorbed. After the unlikely initial conversations, e-mails of family photos were exchanged. More phone conversations followed, and a reunion date was set for this week. Joined with their four other children, the Fassels flew to Denver to meet Mathieson and his family.

"He's got four beautiful girls," said Fassel, the new grandfather. "And they've got such a personality. I can see me and Kitty and our children in each of them. We were all throwing the football around, and one of the girls caught the ball one time and she turned and said, 'Grandpa! Here!'

"I went, 'Thanks, baby."'

Thirty-four years ago, another baby brought Kitty to Denver. When they learned she was pregnant, Kitty and Fassel decided they could not give the newborn the life it deserved.

On April 5, 1969, with no family members at her side, Kitty delivered her first child in a Denver home for unwed mothers that since has been razed.

"I was encouraged to go out of state," confessed Kitty, who met Jim in 1967 when she was a first-year college student at California State University at Fullerton and he was a student at Fullerton Community College. "So that was a family decision with my parents that we made."

The Fassels were married in 1971 and had another child, coincidentally named John, three years later. Mathieson was adopted and spent the first eight years of his life in Fountain. His family moved around the country before settling in Pittsburgh, where his adoptive mom was born and raised.

In 1994, shortly after he graduated high school in Pittsburgh, Mathieson joined the Army and was assigned to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora.

At the same time, Fassel served as Denver Broncos offensive coordinator.

The two men, bound by blood, who wondered about each other, also worked near each other for 18 months. Neither had any idea.

Occasionally, Mathieson attempted to track down his birthparents. About seven years ago, he unsuccessfully attempted, through adoption books and Catholic Charities, to learn the identity of his birth mother and father.

About three years ago, well after Fassel accepted the Giants coaching job in 1997, he and his wife learned about legislation Colorado passed that made it easier to learn the whereabouts of children put up for adoption. Last July, the state's adoption commission set out the procedures that the Fassels followed diligently.

Nancy McElheny, a birth-parent counselor under the child welfare division for Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver, quarterbacked the Fassels' mission. Her work wrapped up last week with a stunning and moving touchdown.

Mathieson - who lost his adoptive father to spinal cancer 5 1/2 years ago and whose mother still lives in Pittsburgh - consented to meet his birthparents.

Before they met for the first time Wednesday, Mathieson called Fassel and revealed that his insides were more twisted than the story that was unfolding in front of them.

"I kept asking myself, 'What do I wear? What should I wear to meet my parents for the first time?' " Mathieson told Fassel.

To which Fassel said, "Well, most people wear their birthday suit, but I don't think that would be appropriate."

The laugh they shared mixed right in with the torrent of emotions both families have felt. For the past two days, they have caught up on each others' lives, which had unknowingly and remarkably overlapped.

"It's a little piece of heaven that has dropped down on us," said Kitty, who informed her four other children about their sibling for the first time in December. "In every person's life, there are situations that are so challenging, so overwhelming, that it's to the point that you want to walk away from it.

"But this shows you have to face it. And keep hope alive. Don't ever give up on hope, whatever that person is struggling with. Don't run away from it. Find in your lifetime the ability to look at a situation square and deal with it because in the long run that frees you and you're able to truly live and love in a better way."

In the days ahead, the Fassels and Mathiesons will continue trying to make up for the time they lost. Already they are discussing a family vacation this summer. But Mathieson, who wondered for years who his parents were, has one other wish.

"I wish news agencies would find these stories when they don't involve celebrities," he said. "Because taking the personalities out of it, it's a wonderful story and a wonderful thing. My whole life my biggest fear and biggest concern was to make sure the people that gave birth to me are good people, the kind of people you'd be proud of. And obviously they are, and not because of who they are but because of the type of people they are."

In the meantime, word is beginning to trickle out to Fassel's and Mathieson's co-workers about the story that will reverberate from New York to California. Giants officials began learning of the story this week, as did automobile dealers in the Denver area. Like Mathieson, those who hear it struggle to process it.

"There's excitement, laughter, happiness," said Mathieson's wife of 10 1/2 years, Kristi. "We went from being extremely nervous to being extremely happy and joyous. It's unbelievable, and that's what all our friends and family members have said. This is the most incredibly happy story you ever heard. It brings tears to everyone's eyes."

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Imagine... one day you are a relatively successful sales manager of a Lexus dealership, the next you find out your bloodline is tainted by the New York Giants. If this guy has any decency, he will sterilize his children.

~Bang

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Originally posted by Bang

Imagine... one day you are a relatively successful sales manager of a Lexus dealership, the next you find out your bloodline is tainted by the New York Giants. If this guy has any decency, he will sterilize his children.

~Bang

Point well taken.

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Originally posted by Tom [Giants fan]

Yeah, I'm sure you would be so disappointed to find out that your biological father is rich and an NFL coach. :silly:

Figured you would be weighing in on this one. :D

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Originally posted by Bang

Imagine... one day you are a relatively successful sales manager of a Lexus dealership, the next you find out your bloodline is tainted by the New York Giants. If this guy has any decency, he will sterilize his children.

~Bang

I would be crushed. Well, it could have been worse - like someone from the cowgirls organization...

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Sure its sappy enough to be a hour long Oprah episode.....but one cannot help but feel good when reading about others joy in something that has lasted this long in their lives.....

Now if my son ended up being Chad Hutchinson, I'd move to Rio....:silly:

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Lots of tough issues in this case. I commend the Fassels for being mature enough to make the decision that they could not provide a quality life for a child (back when they gave the child up for adoption). I see plenty of immature druggies dragging their child along as they stumble through life.

But where's the props for the adoptive parents who actually raised this guy? Seems to me they did all the work and now the Fassels step back into the picture and everyone gets teary-eyed (well - maybe not Bang :silly: ).

Of course, the guy wanted to meet his biological parents (and there's often that imperative in adopted kids). It'll be sort of interesting to see what kind of relationship they all develop.

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I agree Tenn, the couple that raised him should be recogninzed

for a job well done. At the same time, I give Fassel and his

wife a lot of credit for the nerve of searching out this child. It was

risky on their part, because he could've had a hard life and been

very bitter.

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I had the very same reaction, riggins44 and TC did. That article is fascinating for it's total silence on the parents who raised Mathieson.

It's wonderful that this has worked out for them and that Mathieson and Fassel are happy. But it needs to be pointed out that the love and time and devotion that raises a child makes a parent, not shared DNA. The message in that article at best ignores that, and at worst implies otherwise.

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I feel bad for the adoptive parents. They obviously did a good job at raising this guy. He turned out to be a productive member of society and is himself raising a family and being a responsible father. Why arent they praised in this article?

I wonder what they are feeling and thinking right now.

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Originally posted by tommy-the-greek

I feel bad for the adoptive parents. They obviously did a good job at raising this guy. He turned out to be a productive member of society and is himself raising a family and being a responsible father. Why arent they praised in this article?

I wonder what they are feeling and thinking right now.

For all we know he could be a wife beating drunk.

~Bang

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Originally posted by tommy-the-greek

Bang, You may be right, but I think he can't be all that bad if she let him have 4 kids.;)

Seein' as he's half New York Giant, it's my bet those kids have some serious slopes in the back of their heads.:laugh:

~Bang

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Bang, here is a look at the family.

web05170342.jpg

May 17, 2003 -- At one point, Wellington Mara, the Giants' co-owner, looked Jim Fassel in the eye and, with a straight face, exclaimed, "I didn't think of us as having a grandfather coaching our team."

Pardon Mara for the momentary identity crisis. These are emotional times for many involved with the Giants because of the startling revelation this week that Fassel and his wife, Kitty, have reunited with a son they gave up for adoption 34 years ago.

On Wednesday in a hotel in Highlands Ranch, Colo., the Fassels met John Mathieson, who was born on April 5, 1969, when Fassel and Kitty were 19-year old, first-year college students in California. Feeling they were too young to get married and care for a newborn, the Fassels decided to give the baby up. Kitty went to a Denver home for unwed mothers to have the baby, then gave the boy up for adoption to a military family stationed in Colorado. The Fassels were married two years later, but kept secret their child born out of wedlock.

Seven years ago, Matheson began looking for his biological parents but had no luck. Last July, a change in Colorado state regulations made it easier to locate children given up for adoption, as long as both parties provided written consent. Last week, the Fassels were informed that their son had been found; Mathieson was called with the news that his birth parents were located. On Sunday - Mothers Day - Fassel called Mathieson and their separate lives began to become intertwined.

All involved are now dealing with the emotional overload of coming face-to-face with a new son, new parents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts. Mathieson is married and has four daughters; the Fassels have four other children, three sons and one daughter. The Fassels, who had no grandchildren, now suddenly have four.

The two families this week spent time getting acquainted, even playing some touch football in the backyard. Fassel told The Denver Post that one of his new granddaughters called him "Grandpa" before throwing the ball to him.

As news spread this week of the goings-on, the Giants offices crackled with excitement.

"Based on the reaction I've gotten, people are really touched by the story and the happy-ending nature of it," said Pat Hanlon, the Giants' vice president of communications.

At Kuni Lexus in Littleton, Colo., where Mathieson works as a general sales manager, the mood was similarly upbeat, but also respectful. "We've been asked to keep this as private as possible, for the first portion of this adventure he's embarked on," said Robert Lusk, an associate of Mathieson's at the dealership.

Friends and colleagues alike are thrilled for the Fassels and somewhat overcome by the storybook nature of the events.

"I think Jim is a fantastic person and so is Kitty and this is just further evidence of that," said Tom Curtin, Fassel's lawyer and confidant. "He's happy for himself, happy for Kitty especially, and he was overjoyed by the reaction ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^of his own children."

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