As anyone who has traveled for a long period of time can confirm that home is where the heart is. While adventuring around the globe is all well and good, there’s something safe and comforting about returning to your own personal space — most of the time. For Steve Lickteig, however, his home turned into a waking nightmare.
As a teenager, Lickteig learned a startling truth about his adoptive parents that shook him to his core. Faced with that terrible realization, he fled his home, hoping to leave the dark secret far behind him.
Growing up, Steve Lickteig was part of a big happy family. While he knew that he was adopted, that wasn’t a problem; if anything, it made things seem even more serendipitous.
According to Steve’s foster parents, they found him in an orphanage as a baby; no one was sure who his biological parents were. Destiny, it seemed, was guiding the family’s hand.
Although the Lickteigs had plenty of children, they couldn’t say no to baby Steve. Without a second thought, the began the adoption process. He was simply meant to be part of the family!
Once all the details were hashed out, Steve came home and began growing up with the Lickteigs. Everything seemed pretty perfect; he attended school, had a loving home, and was surrounded by brothers and sisters.
Eventually, Steve neared the end of high school. With graduation on the horizon and a military career waiting beyond that, he knew his life was about to change. A terrible surprise, however, was also waiting for the teenager.
On the night before graduation, Steve was hanging out with some of his friends. Everything was going great until two other guys, Vance and Alan, told Steve that there was something he needed to know.
Alan and Vance explained that they actually knew the identity of Steve’s biological mother. While Steve wasn’t sure how his friends could have found her without a DNA test, he couldn’t believe what they said next.
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They explained that someone named Joanie was actually Steve’s real mom. There was one problem, though. Steve already knew exactly who that was; Joanie was his older foster sister!
To make matters worse, Alan and Vance weren’t the only ones who knew the Lickteig family secret. Apparently the entire town had apparently shared the gossip, but no one ever told Steve.
Despite that revelation, Steve didn’t immediately react. While he tried to put the possibility out of his mind, he couldn’t ignore the truth. Eventually, he needed to confront the woman who raised him from his earliest days.
One night, Steve’s foster mom caught him in a “sort of compromising situation.” While that proved to be an awkward moment, it gave him the perfect opportunity to learn the truth.
“The next morning, my mom turned on one of those television preachers and she turned the TV up really loud and the preacher was teaching abstinence,” Steve told NPR. Then, he laid his cards on the table…
“Oh, did you play this same thing for Joanie?” he asked. “Did you teach Joanie abstinence,” you know, “as she got pregnant with me?” While his mother tried to deny it, there was no going back.
It turned out that, as a young woman, Joanie clashed with her mother, Mary Jane. When she was 20-years old, Joanie finally had enough; she left home, set out on her own, and moved to California.
In California, she met a charming older man with an alluring accent. Before long, Joanie was pregnant with his child. Their relationship, however, wouldn’t have a fairy tale ending.
As a young woman who was pregnant out of wedlock, Joanie returned home. Since her relationship would have caused a scandal in suburbia, Mary Jane, had a solution to hide the illegitimate child in plain sight.
Rather than letting Joanie raise Steve, Mary Jane decided to claim him as her “adopted” son. While everyone around town knew the truth, it gave everyone plausible deniability; no one, other than Alan and Vance, could bring themselves to spill the beans.
Understandably, that revelation had a major impact on Steve; everything he thought he knew about his life had been a life. After leaving home, he and Joanie found some peace. Blood, after all, is thicker than water.
“[Our relationship is] not the best, but it’s not horrible, either,” he explained on the Today Show in 2019. “It’s just been hard for me. I feel like we are ultimately going to be in a good place.” But their example encouraged other adoptees to seek out their biological families — often with jaw-dropping results.
Not as lucky as Steve, Patricia Lofton was well aware that her mother gave her up for adoption when she was just a few days old because of financial strains. She accepted it, but it was always at the forefront of her mind.
Her mother already had three children when she gave birth to Patricia, and she was on welfare. Unfortunately, Patricia bounced around foster homes until the age of seven when she was officially adopted.
Throughout her childhood, Patricia never felt like she truly fit in with her family. She knew nothing about her biological mother, and she felt a noticeable disconnect between her world and the one surrounding the people in her life.
Patricia’s life grew even harder when she was in high school. She became pregnant with a baby girl, but unlike her biological mother, she intended to keep the child. She didn’t want her baby to spend her life wondering “what if.”
Around the time Patricia turned 20, perhaps because she was a mother herself, she felt an almost overwhelming urge to track down the woman who gave her up for adoption. She spent hours combing through her adoption papers, but in the end, she found no leads.
Patricia was pregnant with her second child by the time her daughter, Aquarius, was six years old. By then she was committed to the decision to raise both her daughter and soon-to-be son, Andre, by herself as best she could.
Through her 20s and 30s, life was exhausting for Patricia as she tried to provide a stable environment for Aquarius and Andre. She managed to put food on the table and imbue a sense of respect and responsibility in her kids.
Still, the urge to locate her own birth mother never left Patricia, and while watching television one day, that urge took an astounding turn when the woman on the show she was watching captured her attention.
You see, a woman named Vernita Lee was discussing events in her life that matched Patricia’s adoption papers to the tee! Patricia immediately tried contacting Vernita — it could have very well been her mom — but she met roadblocks every time.
Despite the string of bad luck, Patricia pursued information about Vernita. While looking into the woman’s history, Patricia and her son found the name of another one of Vernita’s daughters that caused both of their jaws to drop: Oprah Winfrey.
Yes, it was true. Oprah Winfrey, perhaps the most powerful and recognizable celebrity in the world, was Vernita’s daughter. If Patricia’s suspicions were true, then, this would mean she and Oprah were half-sisters!
Through some intense investigation, Patricia learned of a restaurant in Wisconsin run by Oprah’s niece. She arrived with the adoption paperwork, which convinced the niece to take a DNA test. The results came back positive; it was a match!
Word made its way around the Winfrey family, and eventually, a meeting was scheduled between Patricia, Oprah, and their mother, Vernita. The two long-lost siblings clicked immediately; they had a lifetime of stories to share with each other.
Now that Oprah learned the definitive truth about Patricia, she told the world in the most grandiose way possible: she introduced her on her television program so everyone would know their story!
The joyful sisters embraced each other in front of a stunned and elated crowd. Oprah went on to chat with Patricia about the rocky road she traversed to finally find closure.
One aspect of Patricia’s journey Oprah took to heart was she never sold her story to the news to make a buck. Having the wealth and influence Oprah did meant people sometimes tried to take advantage, and Patricia was soon rewarded handsomely for her humbleness.
Oprah bought Patricia a sprawling mansion in Wisconsin priced at nearly half a million dollars! She also gave Patricia money to return to school at the University of Wisconsin to finish her degree in social work.
Patricia took none of what happened for granted, and she worked hard all the way through school. At 53 years old, she finally received her degree, and who was in the crowd cheering her on? You guessed it… Oprah!
Vernita Lee eventually passed away at the age of 83, but Patricia and Oprah will never forget how she was the key to their reunion. Two sisters, separated for decades, finally connected again.
You can imagine what a shock it was for Patricia to find out she was related to Oprah Winfrey. Of course, most people who go in search of their biological family don’t discover news this big, but that doesn’t mean the reunions are any less significant.
Imagine being so famous that your first name is synonymous with an entire industry. Well, that’s Oprah. She’s dominated the media industry for decades, her unrivaled talent and charisma leading the way. But she wasn’t exactly born into this life of everlasting success and luxury…
Every hero has an origin story, and Oprah’s, who became the world’s first female black billionaire, was undoubtedly painful. Born on January 29, 1954, in rural Mississippi to a poor, teenage mom, she suffered at the hands of abusive family members.
“I was raped at 9 years old by a cousin,” Oprah confessed years later, while painfully recounting her extremely daunting experiences with abuse. “Then again by another family member, and another family member.” And the effects were more than psychological.
The recurring abuse led to an inevitable pregnancy, and in 1968, at the raw and impressionable age of 14 years, Oprah birthed a son she later named Canaan. He tragically died just a few weeks post-birth.
But an ambitious teen Oprah didn’t let her tragic childhood seize her from achieving her dreams. Later, she landed a job in radio before she even graduated high school, unknowingly starting what would be her downright legendary career.
After a few years in the working world, Oprah began hosting local talk shows in the ’70s and early ’80s, eventually gaining tremendous ratings at Chicago’s WLS-TV station. This caught the attention of a very famous film buff.
Acclaimed film critic and journalist Roger Ebert, then known for his TV show At the Movies, encouraged the on-the-rise Oprah to sign a syndication deal with King World regarding the future of the little talk show that could. She took his advice, and more wins came her way.
It was 1986 when Oprah began hosting her self-titled talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. It became known for many things: celebrity interviews, transformative makeovers, social issue analysis, and giveaways — lots and lots of giveaways.
Soon, people were ritualistically tuning into the show, which earned explosive ratings, it being the highest-rated talk show ever. The woman was on fire, but soon intimate aspects of her personal life caught aflame, too.
See, in 1986, just as her talk show found legs, she met businessman Stedman Graham at a charity event. The two started dating that same year, and by 1992, they were engaged to be married — but then, curiously, they called off the wedding.
Opting instead for a “spiritual union,” the two would remain partners moving forward. Naturally, the media and tabloids latched on to this personal information: why didn’t she want go get married? Why didn’t she want kids?
Oprah never supplied answers, so soon, rumors took on lives of their own. Because she had a very tight and public bond with journalist and television personality Gayle King for a kajillion years, some assumed they were more than friends!
So, after battling suspicions and questions regarding her lack of mini Oprahs for what seemed like eternity, the busy, admittedly impatient, Oprah finally supplied an answer and put rumors to rest.
“If I had kids, my kids would hate me,” she explained, going on to say that any kids she had would end up processing the hardships of their childhood on some talk show equivalent to The Oprah Winfrey Show. She elaborated.
To keep her career going strong, “Something would have had to suffer,” she said, “and it would’ve probably been them.” The media mogul had several plates spinning for decades, so it’s no wonder that she never decided to spin a plate in the offspring department.
Despite her feelings towards motherhood being shaped by her troubled past, her maternal nature is undeniable. “When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them,” she said, “because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children.”
So while she may not be a mother in the traditional sense, her dedication to improving the lives of children stands on its own merits. For instance, after a 2002 meeting with Nelson Mandela, the two had together agreed that “education was a way to end poverty in the nation of South Africa.” So Oprah went to work.
In 2007, she opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, which gives educational and leadership opportunities to young girls in need. Her motherly work went on.
Among her prized Oscar and countless Emmys, Oprah won several awards for her humanitarian and philanthropic work, including her acceptance of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Oprah Winfrey’s fiercely busy, and utterly never-ending, journey of success and love never involved kids, and that’s perfectly okay. Being a woman does not require taking on motherhood, and Oprah is proof there are other methods to fruitfulness.
Because she works so hard — even after ending The Oprah Winfrey Show — Oprah accrued a net worth of over $3 billion in her life. For all her charity, she’s spent quite a bit of it on herself, too.
See, when you’re a billionaire like Oprah Winfrey, you aren’t afraid to spend money — especially when it comes to real estate. Oprah recently bought a new vacation home on Orcas Island in Washington, and it’s an absolute paradise.
Orcas is one of the largest of the San Juan Islands archipelago that rests between Seattle and Vancouver. Oprah’s new home sits on more than 40 acres of land, and every inch is an escape from the rigors of celebrity life.
The house itself is called the “Madroneagle,” and it was built in 2007. The original owners put the house on the market in 2016, but Oprah didn’t buy it until 2018, paying a whopping $8.25 million for the property.
The interior of the four-bedroom house is inspired by lodges usually found in the Pacific Northwest. That means that there are plenty of exposed beam ceilings—but the special touches don’t stop there…
Oprah’s a Chicago native, so when she learned that the house featured reclaimed wood and iron from the Sears Tower, she took it as a sign that the house was made for her and her longtime partner, Stedman Graham.
While Oprah has not officially confirmed the purchase herself, a representative from Windermere, the real estate firm responsible for making the sale, has announced that she is the owner. Looking at these luxurious digs, it’s easy to see why she was interested!
The palatial vacation estate is loaded with amenities, like 3,000 feet of water frontage, a library, a guest house, a wine cellar, a sauna, private hiking trails, a pond, and huge gardens. Sounds like you’d never want to leave, right?
For Oprah—the world’s first black female billionaire, who is valued at $3.1 billion—shelling out big bucks on a 7,303-square-foot home isn’t excessive, it’s good business sense. After all, real estate is an investment.
When you’re involved in as many projects as Oprah is, you’ve got to have a place to work even when you’re on vacation. Thankfully, the high ceilings and open plan of this office make it feel like an oasis, not a business center.
The house is filled with bedrooms, too, and they each have their own distinct features. Still, they all have one thing in common: they’re warm, inviting, and offer spectacular views of the landscape.
This special guest room offers a bookshelf that’s built right into the narrow staircase that leads up to a cozy loft. For Oprah’s guests who love to read, this hideaway is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
The bathrooms are, as you might imagine, state of the art. One the guest rooms connects directly to this bathroom with custom his-and-hers sinks and plenty of space to store all of your toiletries.
Vacations are all about getting away to rest and recharge, so what can be more relaxing than a bubble bath? That goes double for this giant tub, which overlooks the trees and the water lapping on the island’s shore.
Oprah has reportedly redesigned several areas inside of her new vacation home, with an eye toward creating a shabby-chic feel. These reclaimed barn doors perfectly reflect her aesthetic. It’s rustic, yet sophisticated!
In a house this luxurious, you have to expect that even usually humdrum areas are going to be breathtaking—and Oprah’s laundry room is certainly no exception. Just look at all that natural light!
One of the best features of this home is, undeniably, the amount of gathering places it offers. This informal den is a great spot to sit and chat after dinner, and the high ceilings keep it from looking or feeling cramped. It’s perfect for entertaining guests.
While traditional wooden homes like this one can often feel dark, even the hallways of Oprah’s estate appear to be open, sunny, and fresh. Wouldn’t you love to wander down a hall like this each day?
In addition to the home’s office and family areas, the house also comes equipped with this workshop space. It’s a perfect spot for Oprah to indulge in her passion for crafts without feeling cut off from the scenery.
No amazing celebrity retreat would be complete without its very own walk-in wine cellar. Can you imagine Oprah’s wine collection? Uncorking a great vintage then kicking back by the water would be the perfect end to a long day.
Even taking a look at the property from the outside, you can tell that Oprah’s abode welcomes guests and makes them feel like they’re home. Even the landscaping and lakeside views add to the home’s charm.
Wandering the grounds of the property is a simple pleasure in and of itself. In addition to being situated directly on the waterfront, this land boasts its own private pond surrounded by lush foliage. Talk about magical!
Not much of a pond person? Oprah’s property also offers an easy stroll to its own private beach. How cool would it be to set up a campfire and toast some marshmallows by the water at night?
Of course, lake beaches aren’t anything like the smooth sand you might find in a tropical locale. Plopping down for a tan on top of the pebbles and rocks might not be your best bet. That said, it’s still a peaceful scene.
For Oprah, this majestic estate is just a summer getaway. Her permanent residence is actually a 20,424-square-foot mansion located on a 40-acre estate known as the “Promised Land” in Montecito, California (pictured). Despite being a lovely home on its own, sometimes it’s nice to get away and enjoy being closer to nature!