Annette Callahan and Bob Harvey were high school sweethearts. Though they went on to marry other people, their hearts never forgot that first love. So when life left them both widowed and alone, they found their way back to one another and eventually walked down the aisle … at age 80.
The Power of Love
Staring at the name on the card she’d just received in the mail, 80-year-old Annette gasped. Bob Harvey. Even after 63 years, her heart instantly filled with warmth.
She had been smitten from the moment she first saw Bob. It had been 1955, and she’d just started her junior year at Garfield High School in Woodbridge, Virginia, when she spotted him sitting three rows up in study hall. She’d been over the moon when she found out through her best friend, who sat next to Bob, that he liked her, too. And soon, they were going steady. He’d been her first love and her first kiss, and she’d loved being known at school as “Bob’s girl.”
But that summer, while away on vacation, Annette met John Callahan, the son of a family friend. The teens spent every day together, and by the time they were heading home, Annette realized she had feelings for John. When school started again, she gently told Bob she’d met someone new and broke things off.
After graduation, Annette went on to marry John, and they shared 54 wonderful years together and had four beautiful children. When John passed away in 2015, Annette was heartbroken— and so very lonely.
Then, one day, in 2018, Annette came across some old photos of her and Bob at their high school junior prom and their sweetheart dance in 1956 — and she felt a stirring in her heart. As memories of their time together flooded back, she found herself searching for Bob on Facebook. She wasn’t able to find him, but Annette also couldn’t stop thinking about him. “Dear Lord,” she prayed again and again over the next year. “Please help me find Bob, if that is your will.”
Melting the Years Away
As it turns out, Bob was actually still living in Woodbridge. He had been devastated when Annette had broken up with him in high school, but he accepted her decision. He finally asked another girl out, and love blossomed. He and Diane had married and raised two children together. They’d been together almost 59 years when he lost her to cancer in 2017. One year later, Bob was diagnosed with cancer himself. He began undergoing treatment — and reminiscing about the good years gone by.
One day, in July 2018, Bob was playing some favorite music from his high school days, when “The Twelfth of Never” by Johnny Mathis came on. Immediately, he thought of Annette. When they’d been dating, she had asked him once how long he’d love her, and he had answered, “Until the twelfth of never — and that’s a long, long time.”
Suddenly, a rush of emotions consumed him. He hopped on his computer and Googled her name. John’s obituary popped up. “She’s alone, too,” he thought, feeling a strong pull to reach out.
Through the church that had handled the funeral, Bob was able to obtain Annette’s address in Gahanna, Ohio, and sent her a condolence card. He included his phone number and a note. “Thinking of you,” he wrote. “I would very much like to see you again and share a Coke, burger, fries, and memories.”
As Annette read Bob’s heartfelt words, her spirit took flight. “Thank you, God, for answering my prayer,” she sighed. That night, she called Bob.
“I’d love to see you again,” Annette told him. “Do you think you’ll ever get a chance to come to Ohio?”
Without missing a beat, Bob blurted excitedly, “I’ll be there in two days!” But he was so thrilled, he actually got in his car and drove straight through the night — and he was on Annette’s doorstep 12 hours later.
“You are beautiful,” he smiled, handing her a bouquet of flowers. “I’m going to kiss you whether you like it or not.” Annette’s head swam as he took her face in his hands and gave her a tender kiss.
In that instant, six decades melted away. For the next 10 days, they held hands, laughed, and talked. It felt so right, Bob came back a few weeks later — and proposed during a romantic picnic lunch. “I love you and want to take care of you for the rest of my life,” he beamed as Annette cried with joy.
On October 19, 2018, in a chapel ceremony, Annette and Bob exchanged vows in front of a small gathering of family and friends, who were thrilled that they’d found each other again. In their hearts, Annette and Bob knew their spouses in Heaven were happy they wouldn’t be alone anymore.
Today, Bob, whose cancer is in remission, tears up as he reflects on their miracle reunion. “Our love story should be an inspiration to anyone at any age,” he says. “Being someone’s first love is great, but to be their last is beyond perfect.”
Annette smiles, tears shimmering in her eyes as well. “I’m so very happy again. I thought I would be alone for the rest of my life. To have found Bob at this stage in our lives is truly a blessing. I believe our reunion was meant to be,” she says. “I know now that we all can be expectant of God’s amazing plan. He has one for each of us, and His timing is always perfect!”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.