Even after losing two wives to cancer, Don Schinstock wasn't afraid to love again.

"I've been blessed," said Don as he sat next to Sharon, wife No. 3.

While others might lament after two beloved wives passed away, Don, a 71-year-old Reno County farmer, did his grieving and then searched once more for a mate to share his life.

He was 69 when he posted his profile on CatholicMatch.com and was bombarded with about 100 responses from several states.

"My granddaughter helped me go through the files," said the father of two grown sets of twins.

Sharon Brungardt's profile caught his eye. A widow, she was a lifelong resident of Garden City.

Back in July 2011, Sharon was mourning hard, according to her oldest son, Curt Brungardt, director of leadership studies at Fort Hays State University. While she enjoyed her job at the Finney County Historical Museum, and went on dates, none of the men were right for this woman who had been married for 52 years.

"I was very lonely," said Sharon. "It was the pits. No fun at all."

Every day she prayed that she would meet a Catholic man who shared her faith and values. Then one night she was praying the rosary. It was just like someone was sitting in the chair next to her. In her mind she heard, "Let me take the lead." Soon afterward, Don's photo caught her eye on CatholicMatch.com. He was good-looking, so she sent him an icon of a rosary. He sent her one back.

In her profile she said she would go anywhere if she found the right man. That impressed Don, who was rooted in the land. First they began exchanging emails. Then Sharon wanted to talk on the telephone, so they exchanged phone numbers and talked for 90 minutes during the first conversation.

"He had to get off the phone and go to one of his grandkids' ballgames," she said. "I really liked that about him."

New old friends

She felt so comfortable talking to him, it seemed like he was an old friend she had known for years.

Don was still grieving from the loss of his second wife, Izetta, but was willing to give love another shot. He went to Garden City to meet Sharon at the beginning of August 2011. For their first date she took him to her in-laws' for dinner. For the family-oriented Schinstock, it was a perfect date. Their second date was church.

At first, Curt Brungardt admits he and his siblings were wondering what these 70-somethings were thinking.

Unbeknownst to Don and Sharon, their kids were doing background checks. The Brungardt clan couldn't find even a traffic ticket on Don. And Don's kids learned that Sharon was known as the Mother Teresa of Garden City's St. Dominic Catholic Church.

The next weekend, he took her to his family reunion. By then, she was wearing his class ring and they were going steady for good.

When she entered his farmhouse, he asked her if she thought she could live in it. She said, "With changes." By Nov. 12, 2011, they were married in Garden City. For the past two years they have been experiencing a number of firsts as they build a life together.

Growing family

Now, they count 10 children - Don and first wife Carol's four, Sharon's three, two stepsons of Izetta, and a half-daughter, Janet Gonsalves. She is Carol's biological child, who was given up for adoption before Carol married Don in 1963. That daughter had been searching for Carol for years and finally connected with the family after her death, just before Don was about to marry Izetta in 1995.

What has helped the relationship work has been embracing each other's past loves. It's who they are. A bonus has been how all the siblings have embraced one another.

"We are like one big family," said Don. For Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Super Bowl, their families flock to the farmhouse. Since the marriage, they all gather at Curt Brungardt's cabin at a lake for Father's Day.

"From my perspective, I couldn't be more excited for my mother. To see her happy again is super rewarding. Don is a super man," said Curt Brungardt. "In the past two years, a lot of bonding has taken place."

He admits the strangest part was to be 52 and have a new dad and new brothers and sisters. But they have all grown close.

"We all love and appreciate each other," said Rachele Schinstock Strawn. She told her father that when he married Izetta, the family gained two brothers and she loves them. Now that he has married Sharon, she had a sister and two brothers whom they all love. Plus, the entire family has embraced Gonsalves.

Don raised his children to have a strong faith and believe everything happens for a reason.

"He lives by that," Rachele Strawn said. "He has no anger or bitterness for all that has happened, all his losses. He truly has faith and puts everything in the hands of God."

The couple is proof that opening one's heart can lift the gloom in life and bring strangers together.

It's also proof for Sharon that "Love makes a family, not blood."

Kathy Hanks spent more than 20 years on a farm in western Kansas. She is a reporter at The Hutchinson News