This heartwarming story proves that it’s never too late to give love a second chance.

In the spring of 1979, Jeanne Gustavson met Steve Watts while members of Loyola University Chicago’s German Club. Instantly, the two twenty-somethings hit it off.

“From the first moment I saw her, I fell head over heels,” Watts, now 71, told The Washington Post.

Chatting turned into flirting, and the two started making plans outside of school.

“It became very apparent very quickly that we had feelings for each other,” Gustavson said. “We were falling in love.”

Her family didn’t want them to be together

But they ran into problems when Gustavson asked her mother if she could invite Watts, who is Black, to a pool party at their house.

“I said one of the people is Black, and she just went ballistic,” said Gustavson. “My extended family got involved, and everyone was discouraging me.”

“They had this mentality that Blacks and Whites don’t belong together,” she added. “In my heart, I knew it wasn’t right.”

“It was our first true love, each one of us.”

Jeanne Gustavson

Still, Gustavson saw Watts in secret.

“I couldn’t let him go,” she said.

They broke up and stayed apart for 42 years

But the relationship didn’t last. With Gustavson working in Chicago’s northern suburbs and Watts in graduate school on the other side of the city, they struggled to find time to see each other. So Gustavson broke it off.

“I just broke down,” Gustavson told The Post. “I didn’t see how we were going to be able to spend time together to foster a relationship.”

“I was devastated,” Watts said.

“I regretted it from the time that I did it. I’ve had guilt over it for the last 42 years.”

Jeanne Gustavson said of breaking up with her first love.

The two went on to get married, then divorced, but they didn’t have kids. Throughout those years, Watts thought of his first love “every day.”

But what he didn’t know was that Gustavson, who had moved to Portland, Oregon, thought of him, too.

“I knew somehow this was an open chapter; it was never closed,” she said. “I knew there had to be more to this than the way it ended.”

Sparks flew when they reconnected

In August 2020 at the age of 68, Gustavson finally decided to track Watts down. But it wasn’t easy.

“Everything came up a dead end,” Gustavson told The Post. “It was like he didn’t exist.”

She ended up tracking down someone who told her that Watts was in a nursing home, but when she called he wouldn’t get back to her.

“That’s when I made the decision that I had to find a resolution, and some kind of closure to all of this,” Gustavson said. “I was going to Chicago, and I did not tell anybody.”

When Gustavson got to the nursing home, she was told Watts hadn’t had a visitor in a decade. He was bedridden and without a left leg after two strokes and other health complications.

“He was in bad shape,” Gustavson said. “The man had virtually no one.”

But when they saw each other after 42 years apart, sparks flew once again.

“In that instant, I knew he still loved me and I still loved him, and this was going to be forever,” Gustavson said. “He grabbed my hand and would not let go. The two of us cried for about an hour and a half.”

“She was so beautiful, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her,” Watts added. “We knew we loved each other still.”

Gustavson spent six days with Watts in Chicago, but when she returned home she decided she couldn’t live without Watts.

“I got on another red-eye, and decided I’m not coming back without him,” she said.

They moved in together

When Gustavson arrived, Watts agreed to go to Portland with her.

“I’ll follow you anywhere,” he recalled saying, according to The Post.

Despite a cost of $14,000 for medical transport — which was covered by a crowdfunding campaign — Watts was driven 36 hours to Portland to live with Gustavson, who became his companion and caregiver.

Incredibly, Watts’ condition has improved “leaps and bounds” and Gustavson is “happier than I have ever been.”

“He makes me feel like I’m 18 again,” Gustavson said. “He is tender and loving, and we make each other laugh. I can’t explain it. I just love the man.”

“She saved my life,” said Watts. “If this is not heaven, it’s pretty close to it.”

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world. And then some.”

Steve Watts

Love knows no bounds

You can’t blame Gustavson for breaking things off the first time around. Differing factors, including disapproval from her family, played a factor.

But they didn’t let that breakup be the end of the story.

Gustavson followed her heart, and it looks like the couple is truly living happily ever after, despite Watts’ body having deteriorated.

The lessons here are that love is love regardless of bodily health, and that it’s never too late for love.

More uplifting stories:

It’s never too late
True love transcends all barriers.