SACRAMENTO — It's a Thanksgiving first for a Sacramento man and his newly-found daughter. They are celebrating this year's holiday together after a DNA match confirmed their connection.
Deborah Phelps and John Romanatto sat on his couch with tears of joy and an emotional embrace, together at last as daughter and father.
"Emotional already," Phelps said. "I know, we both are. It's very special."
She added, "For me, it's just love, finding someone that you didn't know you had in your life, and you're given the opportunity before it's too late."
"It's amazing," Romanotto said.
Phelps, born and raised in Illinois, found her father living in Sacramento six decades into her life and sent him a letter. She asked if Romanotto could find it in his heart to call her.
"I thought about it for a couple days and I called her. Here we are," Romanotto said.
Family photos show Phelps with her mother, Evelyn Kirk, in the early 1960s.
"I grew up very loved, very loved," Phelps said. "And my mother and I were very, very close."
Her mother had been high school sweethearts with John Romanatto, who left for California after high school—never learning what he had left behind.
"I had no idea I had a daughter," Romanotto said. "I got in a car and went to Hollywood, I was going to be a movie star."
Phelps' mother died 30 years ago when she was hit in a DUI crash. Phelps just learned about her mother's high school flame through a relative.
"It came out when it was supposed to come out," Phelps said. "That's what I believe."
This father and daughter's special bond is unbroken after all these years, and on this holiday, they are filled with gratitude for their future together.
"Anytime you have a chance to have a loving relationship, better grab it," Romanotto said.
"Move forward with love in your heart, and see where that takes you," Phelps said.
Phelps and Romanotto have spent the past week together in Sacramento and will be together for Thanksgiving.
They hope to take Romanotto back to Illinois for a visit next year.
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