He Was The Only Man To Believe Her In Court, 44 Years Before They Fell In Love

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Betsy Sailor and Irv Pankey were once just two students trying to get through college so they can begin their lives. They had no idea that trauma would make their path cross not once but twice only for them to fall in love the second time.

This is a story of fate, timing, and kindness. Even the darkest times that bring about the greatest stories in love and success. If you’re currently in a rut, let this story give you hope. Nothing may make sense right now and there may seem like there is no reason for these bad things to happen. It took these two a whole 44 years before they realized that they were star-crossed lovers.

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The Night Of A Traumtic Incident

Betsy Sailor was a 21-year-old Penn State senior when she was raped in 1978 by Penn State football playerTodd Hodne

ESPN/Betsy Sailor

ESPN/Betsy Sailor

Meet Betsy Sailor who in 1978 was just a 21-year-old business administration major student. Due to the time, she was one of few women in her program and it was hard for her to find friends and roommates. So she figured she would make an ad for a roommate and post it in the newspaper, hoping she’d meet other female students that way.

One day Betsy came home from grocery shopping like any other evening and explains:  “I was doing all the silly stuff you do when you’re all by yourself…I was singing loudly and dancing with the refrigerator door, and being very much myself.” Except this wouldn’t be like any other night…

There Was No Way To Escape

ESPN/Betsy Sailor

ESPN/Betsy Sailor

Betsy realized her bedroom light didn’t work and in the next moment she explains: ” I had a hand over my mouth and a knife in my neck and a person saying to me, ‘If you make a sound, I will kill you.’

A man had broken into her off-campus apartment. Betsy immediately went into survival mode. She knew that there would be no point in trying to escape:“I was too afraid that he was going to kill me.”The attacker eventually left her and Betsy was able to free herself. Her attacker turned out to be a player on the football team.

No One Believed Her At First

rv Pankey, a teammate of the Penn State Rapist, Hodne, posing in football jersey

ESPN/Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries)

ESPN/Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries)

When Betsy first tried to testify, it felt like she was going against the whole football team, who stood behind the attacker.  It seemed like no one even believed her.

It would take months before he was finally found guilty after multiple other female victims also come forward. What Betsy didn’t realize was that during her court hearings, when everyone seemed to side with the football player, one man was truly hearing her and believing every word she said.

He Became Her Protector

r Pankey, after Penn State, went on to play 12 seasons in the NFl, signing autograph

ESPN/Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries

ESPN/Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries

Irv Pankey, who was also on the football team could feel Besty’s pain, and he felt a calling to protect her in any way that he could. He showed up at her dorm room, introduced himself, and vowed to help Betsy feel safe again after her trauma. She recalls: “He put out his hand … [and said] ‘Hello, my name is Irv Pankey…I just wanted to let you know that I was in court, and I listened to what you had to say, and I believe every word that you’ve said. You will never have to be afraid or be alone again; I will be by your side.’”

The pair was attached to the hip after that. Irv explains his calling: “Something bad had already happened to her that kind of set her apart. I just didn’t want her to feel that someone did care.”

40 Years Went By

ESPN/Mary F. Calvert

ESPN/Mary F. Calvert

More than 40 years went and the pair graduated and eventually lost touch. They both went on to lead their own independent lives outside of the Penn State. Irv got married and played 12 seasons in the NFL. As for Betsy, she also married and use her degree for a career in HR. While they both had children and built their own families, somehow both also suffered the loss of their spouses.

The years went by until ESPN, an American international basic cable sports channel learned of their story and wanted to tell the world of their unlikely friendship. This experience would bring them back together from across different coasts for the first time in decades

The Fated Reunion Was The Beginning Of A Love Story

Betsy Sailor and Irv Pankey hadn’t seen each other for years before reuniting for a new film about their inspiring relationship

When Irv and Betsy saw each other again to make the documentary, they hadn’t spoken in 44 years. They quickly reconnected and realized that there was something more there for them than a friendship. In fact, even though decades had gone by, they explored romantic feelings that may have been lying dormant all along.

They unlikely friends fell in love.“We found out that we had a lot more in common, I guess, than we thought – and it’s kind of taken off from there…And it’s kind of taken off from there,” explains Irv.

It Was Like No Time Had Passed

Irv holds betsy close for a hug

ESPN/Mary F. Calvert

ESPN/Mary F. Calvert

Watching the documentary, Betsy & Irv, which can be viewed on ESPN+., the couple’s connection seems clear so their blossoming love was of no surprise to anyone around them. The documentary shows Irv knocking on Betsy’s door which leads to a warm embrace between the once traumatized 21-year-old girl who couldn’t walk through campus, and the man who stepped up and protected her until she felt comfortable again.

The chemistry, respect, and affection between these two is undeniable.

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Call It Puppy Love

Besty giving interview



It’s like the couple went back in time to their early twenties, the moment that they fell in love. “I’m crazy about him,” explains Betsy, “I feel so honored to be by his side. He’s such a great guy.” She added: “I got to kiss him for the very first time after 40 years, and it was a lovely kiss – and so I hope to do more of that.”

Call it an act of fate or a question of timing, but it seems like all these events led to the moment that they fell in love as if it was certain that their paths would cross again. “How all this transpired to bring us back together after 40-some years, all these different things had to fall into place,” Betsy said. “I think we both love each other; we work.”

No Time To Waste

Betsy and Irv understand that they’re not young anymore and that every moment they spend together now counts. So they’re not planning to waste any more time. Betsy says she has her “car in sixth gear, and I have my gas pedal on the ground – and I am ready to go. I am ready to go full-speed ahead,”

“We’re in the ride-or-die stage right now,” added Irv,  “just riding off into the sunset … we’re 65 years old. We ain’t got time to be messing around.”

A Kindness We’re All Missing

Young betsy looing at camera



This story is one that ultimately shows how one person’s act of kindness has to power to change lives. Irv and Besty hope that everyone will be inspired by their story: “If it causes somebody else to reach a handout and help somebody, hey, can’t nothing be any better than that,” says Irv “I guess, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a gesture of kindness.

“I think we’re kind of missing that a little bit in this country today.”

What act of kindness are you destined to accomplish? You won’t believe what the science of Numerology can reveal about you!

That’s right, the numerology of your birth date, regardless of what month you were born, can reveal surprising information about your personality.

Higher Perspectives Author

Higher Perspectives Author is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives