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‘Rekindling love’: College sweethearts reunite after 50 years apart

Do you think you could still be in love with your first love even after 50 years apart?

In 1970 Chicago, at Loyola University, a love story unfolded between college sweethearts Jeannie Gustavon, a white woman, and Steve Watts, a black man. Their connection was undeniable, their chemistry unimaginable.

Yet, despite Steve’s unwavering care and respect for Jeannie and the magic they shared, they were forced to conceal their relationship from the world for nearly 8 years. According to KGW News, Jeannie expressed how Steve would treat her, “He was very caring, he always treated me like a lady. He was a gentleman.” Jeannie said.

KGW news
Jeannie and Steve 50 years ago (Photo Credit: KGW News)

Their secrecy was all because Jeannie’s mother did not approve of interracial dating. Forcing the two to go into hiding about their love for each other, which in turn, fueled problems between the two.

Jeannie graduated and became a nurse in 1975, as for Steve, he had a master’s in linguistics and taught German. And the two were very fond of each other. Jeannie would describe Steve, “He was very handsome. He was 6 ‘4, I liked tall guys…”

However, all that love was not enough to fight back all the strain keeping their relationship a secret had caused them. Ultimately, Jeannie made the difficult decision to end things with Steve over the phone, unable to withstand the challenges they faced. Distance and conflicting schedules were just a few of the obstacles that exacerbated their already fragile situation. “I regretted what I did after I did it…” Jeannie painfully exclaimed. “…..it was almost immediate. I mean, I knew I shouldn’t have ended the relationship the way I did but at that point, I didn’t know what else to do.”

Afterward, Jeannie pursued her career as a nurse, eventually marrying but later divorcing her husband. Throughout it all, she never forgot Steve and the deep feelings she held for him. Upon retiring from her nursing career, Jeannie embarked on a quest, scouring the internet in the hopes of reconnecting with the love of her life. However, the journey in doing so was very difficult.

One day, Jeannie decided she was going to send her last letter in hopes of reaching Steve’s niece in Iowa. To her delight, she received confirmation from Steve’s niece, revealing that Steve resided in a care home outside of Chicago. Without wasting a moment, Jeannie penned a letter to Steve, hoping to reunite with him once more. However, her anticipation turned to disappointment when she received no response. Desperate for answers, she placed a call to the care home where Steve resided, only to be met with underwhelmingly vague news that “Steve could not respond.”

Still, Jeannie was eager, so she flew to Chicago. And after a bit of waiting in the visitor’s room at the care home, they finally meet. Upon Jeannie’s arrival, she is informed that Steve had suffered 2 strokes about 15 years before—the reason for the news given to Jeannie that Steve could not respond—and Jeannie was the first person to visit him in 10 years.

KGW news
Jeannie and Steve after 50 years, finally reunited (Photo Credit: KGW News)

Upon Jeannie’s return home, her brother Toni Mathis, deeply moved by the past hardships of their relationship, extended a helping hand. He offered support in various ways, such as providing Steve with a cell phone and arranging medical transport from Illinois to Oregon. Additionally, a few of Jeannie’s friends rallied around her cause, contributing their efforts to ensure Steve could finally come home with her.

After 50 years, the two were finally together, at last, “I loved him very much when we were younger, and we were together. And I knew he loved me. But it wasn’t until all of this, and we’ve been talking, I didn’t know how much he loved me… I really didn’t know.” Jeannie expressed while holding Steve’s hand.


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