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When Life Provides Another Dream

A model walks the runway for designer Manish Arora on Nov. 1, 2006 in Shanghai.
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It began as always, with a dart throw, this time sending Correspondent Steve Hartman to Grand Rapids, Mich. The day he arrived it was warm and sunny. But that didn't stop the chill down his spine after he found out that Thomas Jansen, whose name he had randomly picked from the phone book, had been dead for 48 years.
Helen Jansen still lists her husband's name in the phone book. She still wears his ring on her finger. They are willful reminders of a marriage that lasted barely a year. They were still just setting up house and hoping to start a big family.

"I remember saying, 'I love you more than you love me," says Helen Jansen. "And he'd say, 'Oh no, I love you more than you love me.' It was just so sweet, really. He was very dear."

"I looked up out the bay window, and I saw two cars pull up at my house," she recalls. "I can still remember it, you know, to this day. And one was a priest, and one was two men from the base, and they had a Thermos of coffee....So they told me."

Thomas Jansen had been a Navy pilot. He was flying a helicopter when the tail rotor broke. Now she has the flag from his funeral.

On the very day she buried her husband she felt a kick in her stomach. "That's the first day I felt life," she says.

Although they had told no one, Helen was four months pregnant when her husband died.

"And I was raised by my mother all those years," says her son Tom Jansen.

Thomas Jansen II is now 47. And although his mother never remarried, she never gave up her dream for a big family either. She really wanted grandchildren - until Tom and his wife Shirley found out they couldn't have kids.

Then last year, on Helen Jansen's birthday, her son handed her a card. And at the bottom it was signed "Tom, Shirley," and then there were two question marks. And Helen Jansen thought to herself, "Well, that's an odd way to sign a birthday card."

"Right now I have goose bumps just thinking about it. Not just that I'm a grandmother, but it's just that they've got some little children that need a home," she says.

Meet question mark No. 1: Four-year-old Catalin. Tom and Shirley Jansen adopted him and his older brother Andrei from a Romanian orphanage.

When Helen first met the kids, she "just grabbed on to them and hardly let go," recalls Tom Jansen.

In the seven months since, the boys have learned every English phrase a kid needs to know - especially the ones you use on grandmas.

"Grandma makes some cookies," says Andrei.

"The love they give you - I tell you it's just overwhelming sometimes," says Helen Jansen. "They just want to kiss you. And they give you a Romanian kiss."

It isn't at all the family she imagined 50 years ago. But in many ways it is finally the family she always dreamed of.

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