White woman who secretly dated a black man for seven years when they were college sweethearts in the 1970s is reunited with him 42 years later after tracking him down in a Chicago care home
- Jeannie Gustavson, 68, and Steve Watts, 71, dated secretly for seven years in 70s
- They broke up 42 years ago as her family didn’t approve of interracial dating
- She recently tracked him down to a nursing home in Chicago and are ‘still in love’
A mixed-race couple who were college sweethearts and dated each other secretly in the 1970s have recently reunited and discovered they are ‘still in love’.
Jeannie Gustavson and Steve Watts met as students at Loyola University in Chicago when she was a freshman, aged 18, and he was a senior, aged 21, and they soon started dating.
However, he was black and she was white and her family disapproved of interracial dating, meaning they had to conduct their relationship in secret for seven years.
Jeannie Gustavson, 68, and Steve Watts, 71, were college sweethearts and dated each other secretly in the 1970s have recently reunited and discovered they are ‘still in love’
Jeannie, now 68, recalls how her college boyfriend Steve, now 71, was 6ft 4in and was ‘handsome, extremely intelligent, witty and quite charming with a killer smile’.
When they graduated, Jeannie became a nurse and Steve studied a master’s degree in education and became a German teacher.
But, after seven years together, Jeannie ended the relationship over the phone due to the building pressures of work, distance and conflicting schedules – but has regretted the decision for the rest of her life.
Speaking to KWG news, she said: ‘I regretted what I did after I did it, 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.
The couple met as students at Loyola University in Chicago when she was a freshman, aged 18, and he was a senior, aged 21, and they soon started dating. Pictured: Their graduation photo
However, he was black and she was white and her family disapproved of interracial dating, meaning they had to conduct their relationship in secret for seven years until they broke up – something Jeannie has regretted ever since
The college sweethearts never spoke or saw each other again, and Jeannie since married someone else, then divorced, but never forgot Steve.
Late last year, Jeannie began searching for Steve online, hoping for a second chance or to apologize for breaking up with him.
She wrote recently: ‘Forty two years later, retired, with a computer & nothing but time on my hands, could I find him? Could I apologize? Could we be friends?’
Her efforts to track him down seemed futile for months, until she made contact with his niece who told her Steve was in a nursing home in Chicago and gave her the address.
Late last year, Jeannie, now a retired nurse, began searching for Steve online, and after months of searching she tracked him down to a nursing home in Chicago
Jeannie wrote to him twice but didn’t hear back and eventually she showed up at the care home facility this summer with their graduation photo in hand and butterflies in her stomach.
She recalled their reunion, writing: ‘The minute he rolled into the visiting room and uttered the sweet nickname he gave me, forty two years melted away. He and I were 18 and 21 again. We cried, we laughed, we held each other. And most wonderfully we realized we were still in love.’
Steve had suffered two strokes 15 years ago, leaving him debilitated and Jeannie was his first visitor in ten years.
Steve had suffered two strokes 15 years ago, leaving him debilitated but Jeannie said he called her the sweet nickname he had given her 42 years ago and they were ’18 and 21 again’
Jeannie has managed to bring Steve out of the nursing home to her home in Portland, Oregan, where she is now his carer and they have rekindled their long-lost love
‘I knew at that moment that he still loved me, and this time it was going to be forever. I just knew it,’ she told KWG news.
With the help of a GoFundMe page, and using the rest of her savings, Jeannie has managed to bring Steve out of the nursing home to her home in Portland, Oregan, where she is now his carer.
Although Steve finds it difficult to speak, he can still make Jeannie laugh and they have forgiven each other for the past and rekindled their long-lost love.
She said: ‘I did a very stupid thing 42 years ago and I’ve regretted it ever since. And all I can do now is love him as best I can and see to it that he’s happy.’
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