135 Years, 135 Stories title image

Motherly Love

PETE, Florida

Imagine, if you can, being a single pregnant teenager in 1934. To say it would have been difficult is a tremendous understatement. But in 1934 Vivian Cronk gave birth to a baby boy in the St. Petersburg, Florida, Florence Crittenton Home. From the beginning Pete Van Strum’s adoptive mother told him he was lucky to have a birth mother who loved and cherished him. “She cared about you so much and wanted you to have the best possible life—even if that meant she wasn’t there for it,” Pete recounts his adoptive mother saying.

The years passed and in 2002 after retiring he posted a message with his birth mother’s name and place of birth on Ancestry.com. He soon forgot about the effort and returned to enjoying retirement.

So he was surprised when, seven years later in 2009, two of his birth mother’s granddaughters contacted him. They told him that his birth mother, Vivian Cronk, was alive and kicking at 96 years of age and by then Pete was 75. What began with a joyful reunion in 2009 grew into a wonderful, ongoing relationship between mother and son, despite decades of separation. Both Pete and his mother were glad to be reunited, and Pete reports that meeting his mother has given him “great joy and peace.”

In a letter to Vivian, Pete wrote: “So here we are, together again some 75 years later. Now I can look into your lovely eyes and face and tell you directly how much I love you and thank you for doing what must have been so difficult. Everything has turned out well.”

On August 13, 2010 Vivian Cronk passed away nine months after her reunion with her son. “We had nine great months together! She carried me for nine months and I had the chance to bring her some unexpected happiness her last nine months,” said Pete.

Pete and Vivian Photo