AUBURN - Peru State College professors Dan and Alice Holtz traveled to Colombia nearly four decades ago to adopt a child and bring the infant back to Auburn. Jon Holtz says his parents gave him a great life, but he was also interested in finding his birth parents.

A high school teacher helped him write letters to the U.S. ambassador in Colombia, but responses were sparse and framed with mentions of closed records and road blocks.

By his junior year, he had resigned himself to never knowing. Then, on Jan. 16, 2019, he was sitting at his parents’ house with his two daughters in a snow storm. His mom gave him some old paperwork and he showed his daughters his birth certificate.

Holtz: “I’m sitting there and I’m like, there’s a name on this birth certificate. I’m like, that’s interesting. Never once had I thought about this, but I thought 'let’s put this into Facebook'. Let’s search out this name on Facebook and see what comes up.”

Holtz describes a happy life growing up in Auburn, but some questions lingered.

Holtz: “Heck, I was riding my bike down to Rotary Lake, fishing. I was hanging out with friends. I mean, I did everything. It was great. It was such a wonderful life here in Nebraska. I loved every minute of it and my parents were wonderful here. They were always my parents, right?”

After many days, a response came to his Facebook message. “I can’t believe you found me.”

He made the decision to travel with his parents and wife Ashley to Colombia to meet his birth mother, Cecelia, but the coronavirus pandemic made travel impossible. It gave Holtz and his family time to develop an online relationship before their actual meeting.

 

Holtz: “It felt right. That’s something I can say I probably worried about a little bit. How was this interaction, how was all of this going to pan out? Yes, we’ve talked. Yes we got to know each other a little bit, but really what was it going to be like? The minute I stepped out and she gave me a hug, it felt like a motherly hug. It felt like true love.”

Ashley said it was a great experience.

Ashley: “When we were there, they welcomed us with open arms and did everything for us. They are an amazing family to have. That’s just an extended family that we have now.”

Holtz, a fourth grader teacher and tennis coach at Elkhorn, was impressed with Colombian traffic that was apparently without rules and without anger and the opportunity to see the city through this extended family’s eyes.

Holtz: “Just walking the streets of Bogota. I think we got to see the innards. Yes we were tourists in a sense, but being with them we saw things that I don’t think every tourist would’ve saw. … I think my favorite part of it was when we went to her little small town where she was born and where she lived. That was probably the most emotional day for me just simply because I’m thinking this could’ve been my life. … I just thought what if I never was adopted and I was still there. I’d be just as happy.”

He did admit that tennis tends to be overshadowed by soccer, but his Colombian family followed Elkhorn tennis on Facebook and his fourth graders have been interested in his journey. His daughters are thrilled with their abuela in Colombia and his parents have been excited every step of the way.

Holtz: “It’s just been really cool to see how my parents here interacted with my now new parents in Colombia, when we were together. That was also emotional for me because it was fun to see that. They just gelled. They became one set of parents.”

Holtz said he hopes to bring his daughters to Colombia and host their extended family in America soon.

He said the experience has answered the questions he had about his birth parents, but rather than closure, the experience has meant inclusion.

Holtz: “Now I just want to move forward with everybody and enjoy what we have.  I’m so excited for some to come here. I think they it’s  going to be just as eye-opening for them as it was for us going there. “