“I Regretted It From The Time I did it,” Forced To End Their Interracial Romance, Couple Reunites 50 Years Later

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It turns out that true love is timeless. No matter how much time goes by and how much changes in life during that time, a true soulmate connection finds its way back and fights off the odds. Sometimes when love doesn’t work out, it’s not because it wasnt a good fit but due to circumstances. Sometimes it’s just a question of timing.

When Jeanna Gustavson met the love of her life in college, all odds seemed to be stacked up against her. Their interracial relationship was not accepted at the time and it tore them apart. She regretted it for the rest of her life, so at 68 years old, she decide to track down her long-lost lover.

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He Was Her First Love

framed picture of young jeanne and steve

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

Jeanna Gustavson was just a freshman in college when she first met Steve Watts, who was a senior at the time. The pair happened to be a gathering of the German Club at Loyola University Chicago in 1971. There were many students there but for whatever fateful reason, they caught each other’s eye and couldn’t let go of it. They had no idea what was in store for them.

Jeanne was immediately smitten by how handsome he looked, and became even more fond when she started talking to him. She remembers that he was:  “extremely handsome, dressed impeccably, always a gentleman—everything you’d want in a boyfriend.”

They Fell In Love Quickly

side by side old photos of Jeanna and Steve

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

Jeanne’s and Steve’s connection was instant. Call it love at first sight if you will but they both knew somewhere deep down that they were meant to meet and that they would play a big impact on each other’s lives forever, however that played out. Jeanne recalls in an interview with The Washington Post “It became very apparent very quickly that we had feelings for each other…We were falling in love.”

Except the young couple’s romance wasn’t an easy one. Steve was a Black man and Jeanne was a white woman. Despite them loving each other unconditionally, Jeanne’s mother did not feel the same. In fact, Jeanna’s mother made her objections clear and because they lived together, she even went as far as to forbid them from seeing each other. But, Jeanne wouldn’t give up that easily: “He was my first love. He was my true love.”

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Interracial Relationships Were Not Accepted

two hands holding each other by the pinky

Womanizer Toys / Unsplash

Womanizer Toys / Unsplash

Although Jeanna and Steve understood well that true love went beyond the color of their skin, Jeanne’s family didn’t yet see it that way “They had this mentality that Blacks and whites don’t belong together,” explains Jeanne who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Her mother was willing to go to any means to put an end to this relationship and was not willing to see it happen at all.

Jeanna’s mother’s perspective wasn’t uncommon at the time as the Civil Rights Movement was still fresh and making its way. In fact, a transition to a fully integrated school system did not even begin until 1971.

Jeanne’s Mother Pressured The Relationship

black and white photo of the couple

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

Jeanne’s mother wasn’t going to back down easily. She went as far as contacting her daughter’s dean’s office and asking the university officials to keep the couple apart.

Still, the young couple tried to fight back. They even managed to date for seven whole years in secret. But, like all relationships, they were constantly challenged. Not only did they already face tremendous pressure from Jeanne’s family but they hit a wall when Jeanne graduated nursing school. She got a job that required a long commute and late shifts and that would put pressure on any relationship.

Enough Became Enough

Young Jeanna standing in front of young man

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

Eventually all the obstacles the couple was facing started to feel overwhelming and they were losing the strength to fight off all the added pressure. It all became too much for Jeanne: “I was completely overwhelmed by everything.”

The issues were piling on at this point: “The family issue was always weighing on me because it fractured the relationship between my mother and myself forever. She was always my mother and I always loved her, but it affected our relationship for the rest of my life.”

“I Just Can’t Do This”

Steve lays in bed with eyes closed

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

Then the worst happened. Jeanne and Steve would often speak of marriage and highly considered the possibility. But, they got to a point where a happy ending felt too far out of reach, and fighting for it felt impossible. The cost of their love story was becoming too high

“I would’ve lost my entire family,” explains Jeanne. “I knew that if I did marry him, I probably wouldn’t see my family again.” Eventually, she couldn’t take it anymore. She remembers standing at the nurse’s station and ending her story with the love of her life over the phone. She remembers telling him: “I love you, but I just can’t do this.” Jeanne was devasted and for the next 42 years she would carry chronic regret for breaking up with Steve.

The Chapter Didn’t Feel Closed

Jeanne speaks to camera in interview at 68 years old

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

In the blink of an eye, four whole decades went by. This felt like an entire lifetime and both Steve and Jeanna moved on to lead lives of their own. They never heard of each other. They both got married to other people but ultimately both their marriages ended in divorced without having children. This was perhaps because they never actually could forget about each other.

Jeanne never truly recovered from her decision to break up with Steve: “I regretted it from the time that I did it. I’ve had guilt over it for the last 42 years,” For that reason, she always held on to hope that somehow, they would one day be reunited” “I knew somehow this was an open chapter; it was never closed…I knew there had to be more to this than the way it ended.”

The Search Begins

search for a stephen in chicago on computer

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

Finally, at 68 years old, Jeanne felt deeply in her heart that she had to do something about Steve: “a day didn’t go by that I didn’t think of him.” The time to act was now and she was determined to find him and make up for lost time, as well as mend the decision she’s regretted since. However, the search wasn’t easy:  “Everything came to a dead-end when I tried to search for him…There was virtually no trace of him.”

She spent seven months trying to think of every possible way of getting information on where Steve could be. Finally about a year later, she found a mailing address for his niece and wrote her a letter. From there she found out the information for the nursing home he was staying at: “It was one of the happiest days of my life. At least I knew where he was.” Jeanne couldn’t wait to see Steve in person again.

An Overdue Reunion

steve and Jeanne in van smiling

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

Finally, the day came for Jeanne and Steve to find each other again. Except 42 years had passed and a lot had changed, which made for a bittersweet reunion: “It was wonderful and it was sad at the same time because he didn’t look at all like when I knew him 50 years ago,” she said. Watts had suffered two strokes, and his left leg was amputated due to infections he faced at the nursing home.

It just broke my heart,” However, no matter what state she found him in, all that mattered to Jeanne was that they were finally together. Jeanne explains:”I knew he still loved me. I just knew…We spent the next hour and a half together, and he clung onto my arm with a death grip. We talked, we cried and we found out that neither one of us was married at this point and we still loved each other.” They spent six days doing nothing but catching up.

Bringing Steve Home

KGW News / Youtube

KGW News / Youtube

When the time came for Jeanne to go back home, she decide that this time, she wouldn’t be going back alone. She finally found steve and she wasn’t willing to ever leave him again. So, she asked him to come live with her, and to that he said: “I’d follow you anywhere.”

Because of his fragile condition, Steve couldn’t fly. The couple started a Go Fund Me page to raise donations for medical transport to bring Steve to Jeanne’s home. The trip took 36-hours in the medical van, but the newfound couple felt like they now had all the time in the world: “We’re trying to make up for 42 lost years.”

Happily Ever After

hands holding each other on yellow background

Ave Clavar / Unsplash

Ave Clavar / Unsplash

The couple has since settled into a peaceful life at Jeanene’s home together. Steve feels like the luckiest man in the world to be in her care: “She is beautiful. She is wonderful. She is my heart and soul…I love her. I want to live with her always.” The couple shows that it’s never too late, and when there’s a will, there is always a way to make love happen!

So how do you know if it’s true love? In any relationship, always look at how you feel and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?

Love is more than just kisses and butterflies, it’s much more than that. If you want to know more on what your birth chart reveals about how you love and what you need out of a partner, check out this personalized report based on date of birth.

Higher Perspectives Author

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