Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

“A real love is understanding and forgiving, it does not diminish with time, instead it grows, it deepens and it evolves, it endures through changes. It is a bond that strengthens with every shared experience. True love is selfless, it is patient and it does not waver even when circumstances change. Love in its truest form is everlasting,” and Jeanne and Stephen’s story can only prove it.

Family pressure pulled this couple apart, but neither they, nor time could keep them apart forever

It all started in 1971, when Jeanne Gustavson first met Stephen Watts. He was a freshman and a senior at Chicago’s Loyola University. “He was my first love. He was my true love,” added Jeanne. They met at a meeting for German Club, of which Stephen was the president. “He was striking,” Jeanne said. “Extremely handsome, dressed impeccably, always a gentleman – everything you’d want in a boyfriend.”

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

Steve knew that Jeanne was the one as well at first sight: “From the first moment I saw her, I fell head over heels.”

The couple started dating shortly after and stayed together for seven years, despite a strong opposition from Jeanne’s family because Stephen was African American.

Jeanne lived with her mother and grandmother at the time and it was not allowed to have black people in the house unless they were workers. Therefore the relationship had to be in secret.

“I loved him, and we wanted to get married,” said Jeanne. “We talked about it and having a family.”

The couple dated for 7 years in secret because Jeanne’s mum couldn’t accept Steve due to his skin color

In the meantime, Stephen was studying linguistics in graduate school at Loyola’s downtown campus and Jeanne graduated from nursing school in Maywood and got a job at a hospital. Life got so busy that it was getting more and more difficult to see each other.

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

“One night, when he called me, everything came down on me at once, and I made a decision to end the relationship,” said Jeanne. She told him, “‘I love you, Stephen. I’m sorry, but I can’t do this’.” He couldn’t say a word from how deeply he was upset and so was Jeanne.

For the next several decades they went in complete silence with each other. Life took them separate ways, both got married and then divorced, yet Jeanne all that time carried the guilt and regret of ending things with Stephen for the next four decades of her life.

“I regretted it then, I regretted the way I did it, but I did it,” said Jeanne.

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

Many years passed by, Jeanne was divorced, retired and her mother was no longer alive; therefore, she decided to find her one and true love. She didn’t want to interfere in Stephen’s life, she just wanted to explain and apologize for what happened between them in the past and was curious about his life: “I prayed he’d be married and be happy and have kids. He always wanted a family.”

She began looking from her home in Cedar Mill, Oregon, also by writing down the names of family members that she remembered, yet all she got was a loose end: “Everything came up a dead end when I tried to search for him,” she said. “There was virtually no trace of him.”

Despite the lack of success, Jeanne wasn’t giving up and finally had a breakthrough: “After seven months without any success, I went in one last time. I said, ‘Okay, God. This is it. If nothing comes up, I’m done. I don’t know what else to do.’ And lo and behold, his niece’s name popped up with an address. That was one of the happiest days of my life, because I thought: Oh, my God, I can find him now.”

A truly heartbreaking moment of seeing each other again after 42 years apart

Stephen was in a nursing home outside of Chicago. Jeanne tried to call there, but because of the privacy rules, she couldn’t get more information besides that “he’s alert and oriented”.

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

The woman wrote a letter asking for forgiveness, but never got back any answer, so she decided to fly to Chicago by herself and try her luck to see Stephen. Jeanne didn’t know at the time he had suffered a stroke, his left leg was amputated due to infections and he couldn’t write back to her.

When she finally arrived at the nursing home in 2020, she was escorted to a room to wait, but Stephen refused to come down because he didn’t know who the visitor was. Finally, when he came down and they saw each other, their hearts burst into pieces.

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

The tall and handsome man Jeanne once knew, the man who’d always worn a sports jacket and tie, was in sweats now. His hair was long and scraggly.

“I knew it was him, but it wasn’t him,” she said.

The couple didn’t want to spend a minute apart, therefore Steve was transported to Jeanne’s home in Portland

Then, in a whisper, Stephen told the nickname he’d given Jeanne all of those decades before – a name no one else knew and she won’t reveal. And he added: “I always loved you. It never changed.”

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

“In that instant, I knew he still loved me, and I still loved him, and this was going to be forever,” said Jeanne. “He grabbed my hand and would not let go. The two of us cried for about an hour and a half,” the woman couldn’t hold back her emotion.

After reconnecting, she never wanted to be apart from Stephen again, so she arranged for him to be transported from the care home in Chicago to her home in Portland. The journey wasn’t an easy one because Stephen couldn’t sit in a regular wheelchair. The duo couldn’t board a plane and fly off together, so they drove for 36 hours in a medical transport van.

Since moving in together, Stephen’s health has significantly improved. “She saved my life,” he said. “If this is not heaven, it’s pretty close to it.”

Love found a way for Jeanne and Stephen despite them not being able to be together for several decades

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

True love always finds a way, no matter the difficulties

Leaving their heartbreaking past behind them, the duo has found a peaceful joy at home together. Stephen likes to play chess and listen to classical music compositions, while Jeanne enjoys whipping up his favorite German dish, Rouladen. He makes me feel like I’m 18 again,” Jeanne said. “He is tender and loving, and we make each other laugh. I can’t explain it. I just love the man.”

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

Stephen, 74, and Jeanne, 71, finally got married at their home on October 15, 43 years after she broke off a relationship that began when they were both students at Loyola University Chicago – a decision she’s regretted all of her life.

“You’re my soul mate, my best friend, and I want to spend forever with you,” said Jeanne, reciting her vows. “The first time I saw you, my heart whispered, ‘She’s the one.’ My heart was so right,” Stephen added.

After 42 years, two souls were reunited again, and hopefully this time forever

Separated By Their Families Yet United By Unconditional Love: A Couple Reunited After 42 Years Apart

Jeanne said if she could give advice for people in relationships today, it would be this: “True love does exist. Follow your heart. I didn’t, and I regretted it the rest of my life. If you have those feelings for someone, follow through on it, because it can be the very best time of your life.”

I hope you enjoy this article. If you have any issue or any question related to this article you can contact with our team by filling form here.

We also extend our global reach through our sister websites:

Explore our content in different languages to enjoy a diverse range of articles tailored to specific cultural nuances.

Daily Trend Blog