When a young couple met at college, they fell head-over-heels for each other. In fact, they were so in love that they soon got engaged. Sadly, though, the young woman’s father put an end to their marriage plans. And the pair tried to put the matter behind them – until 50 years after that broken engagement, when they both made extraordinary discoveries.
In the early 1960s Janice Rude was a sophomore at Occidental College in the city of Los Angeles, California. To earn a little extra cash, she also worked in the campus dining room – which is how she came to meet Prentiss Willson.
Willson was a Kappa Sigma brother who would go on to become the president of his chapter. What’s more, he supported the chapter’s decision to quit the national fraternity over its decision to refuse to permit his black classmate Gene Grigsby to join. So it was fair to say that Willson was a man of principle.
It’s therefore not too hard to see why Rude quickly became attracted to him. And yet she would have known nothing about her fellow student when their eyes first met across their college canteen. Adorably, they would both later admit that it was pretty much love at first sight on that fateful occasion.
“I believe we were simply meant to be,” Willson would recall in a 2013 interview with The Huffington Post. “I even remember the first time I laid eyes on Janice.” Willson was transfixed, and consequently he soon started making regular visits to the canteen for breakfast.
“Every day, at 6:00 a.m., because I just wanted to see her and have our little morning exchange,” he explained. “I actually didn’t think I had a chance with her. She was a year ahead of me and just so beautiful.”
However, it transpired that Rude was also harboring feelings for her younger classmate. In fact, when Willson didn’t turn up to the college’s pre-Thanksgiving dinner, she was heartbroken. So she got a fellow student to look for him. And when Rude found out where Willson lived, she drove 150 miles north to Santa Maria to see him.
Once there, Rude marched up to the Willson family’s home and knocked on the door. And while her arrival obviously surprised Willson, he still decided to invite her in to join them. Fortunately, she made an instant connection with his mother, who was captivated. “Just like I was,” Willson recalled to The Huffington Post decades later.
From that moment on, they were constantly at each other’s side. And things went well – so well, in fact, that in December 1962 the young couple announced their engagement in a local newspaper. However, the report also stated, “No date has been set for the wedding.”
But, as it happened, their engagement turned out to be short-lived. For reasons that are still unclear, Rude’s father disapproved of his daughter’s relationship. As a result, he threatened to cut off Rude’s financial support unless she broke up with Willson.
Her father’s intervention naturally devastated Rude, so she tried to resist his demands at first. Against her husband’s wishes, Rude’s mother even tried to take out a second mortgage to fund her daughter’s studies. Unfortunately, though, these efforts didn’t pay off.
“We tried to figure things out, but I guess we weren’t smart enough,” Willson later admitted. So, with Rude’s biology major hanging in the balance, the couple were forced to go their separate ways.
The couple then tried to put their doomed relationship behind them. After graduating, Willson subsequently attended Harvard Law School. He then went on to become a top tax attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Rude, meanwhile, ran her family’s diving board manufacturing business in Reno, Nevada. Her contributions to the industry meant that the USA Diving Association later inducted her into its Hall of Fame. And, like Willson, she did eventually marry.
However, neither of the unions lasted, and Willson and Rude both divorced. Still, over the following decades, their paths rarely crossed. That was, until both of their mothers died within a short space of time.
That was when the star-crossed lovers discovered an amazing coincidence. As Willson was sorting through his late mother’s belongings, he found a cutting of the announcement of his engagement to Rude. It turned out that his mom had kept it for all those years.
Then, when Rude’s mom passed on, she too began going through her stuff. Amazingly, Rude’s mother also had a clipping of the engagement announcement. In fact, it turned out that for more than 35 years, she’d kept a laminated copy in her wallet.
“The mothers got it,” said Willson. “The mothers simply knew, and I think we also knew.” So, with their discoveries playing on both of their minds, Willson and Rude decided to look each other up in 2010.
What’s more, the pair hit it off right away, and less than six months later they would become engaged once again. In a nod to their late moms, Willson and Rude even used the original engagement announcement as their invite. However, this time they pointed out that they had finally set a date. Their nuptials would take place on August 19, 2012, at Occidental College.
So when Willson and Rude wed in 2012, they finally had their fairytale ending. Some of their old college classmates were even there to witness their big day. And it’s fair to say that their story is a unique one: a marriage more than 50 years in the making.