Jeanne and Stephen Watts are proof that true love always prevails. Despite objections from Jeanne’s family, the couple fell in love in 1971 and were unable to marry at the time. However, 42 years later, they tied the knot and are making up for lost time. When asked about the proposal, Jeanne exclaimed, “A thousand times yes!” They initially met at Loyola University in Chicago where Jeanne was a freshman and Stephen was a senior. According to Jeanne, “He was my first love. He was my true love.”
Unfortunately, Jeanne and Stephen’s relationship was hindered by objections from Jeanne’s mother, who did not approve of her daughter marrying a Black man. Jeanne recalls her mother’s reaction as being “ballistic.” Despite the objection, the couple managed to date for seven years. However, once Jeanne graduated from nursing school and started working, their meetings became challenging due to a long commute and the fact that Stephen did not have a car.
Jeanne felt overwhelmed by the situation, stating, “I was completely overwhelmed by everything.” The issue with her family weighed on her heavily and caused a permanent rift in her relationship with her mother. Despite discussions of marriage, Jeanne was afraid to take the next step due to the potential loss of her entire family. While working a shift at the nurse’s station, she told Stephen, “I love you, but I just can’t do this.” The heartbreak and end of the relationship were not what they wanted. Jeanne expressed regret over how things ended, saying, “I regretted it then, I regretted the way I did it, but I did it.”
For the next 40 years, they were out of touch and lived separate lives. In 2021, Jeanne, who was a retired divorcee after her mother’s passing, decided to search for Stephen again. Despite numerous attempts, she couldn’t find him on social media and all her searches came up empty. However, in April, she found the mailing addresses of his niece and wrote a letter to her, which led her to find out that he was in a nursing home.
Jeanne Gustavson tracked Stephen Watts to a Chicago nursing home and brought him back to her home in Oregon. https://t.co/y0AKPUqrpU— BeavertonValleyTimes (@ValleyTimes) February 8, 2022
In an attempt to connect with Stephen, Jeanne called the nursing home a month later and asked to speak with him. However, she was told by a staff member that patients didn’t have bedside phones. She then wrote a letter but received no response, and subsequent calls to connect were unsuccessful. In June 2021, Jeanne made the journey from Oregon to Chicago to see Stephen in person. She needed to know if he was okay, if he was married, and if he would forgive her.
Upon entering his room, Stephen immediately recognized her, called her name, and began to cry. Jeanne knew he still loved her. In August of that year, she moved in with Stephen and they have been together since. Stephen expressed his love for Jeanne, saying, “She is wonderful. She is my heart and soul. I want to live with her always.”