Real Life

Reunited after 56 years

When heartbroken teenager Ruth Dyson bid farewell to her first love Harry Coyle after he joined the army, all she could hope was that they’d meet again.

Hopes that he’d stay in touch and come back to her one day were dashed as weeks without a letter from Harry turned into years, and then decades. But for Ruth the spark stayed strong, and for decades she wondered what had happened to her handsome 18-year-old soldier who had gone to serve in Japan.

Now Ruth (81) is finally back in the loving arms of Harry (83) after an incredible stroke of luck that brought the teenage sweethearts together.

“I often thought about him and wondered what had happened to him. I finally found out, years later,” Ruth says.

Meanwhile, whenever Harry thought of Ruth, he felt a pang of guilt, wishing he had given her an explanation.

“I really thought the way that I broke up with her was unkind, but I was in a new life situation. I had joined the army, but it was still a bad way to do it,” Harry says.

The two, who live in the US, went on to fall in love with other people and enjoyed long, successful marriages.Then, 10 years ago, on the other side of the world from Harry and Ruth’s home, Ruth’s niece Martha was hosting a dinner party in Wellington. Harry’s daughter KC Little was one of the guests. When Martha mentioned that her mother grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, KC was amazed at the coincidence because her father had grown up there too.

KC, who lives in Wellington, emailed her father to ask him if he knew Martha’s mother. Not only did he know her, he went to school with her and her sister, Ruth – his teenage sweetheart.

Then KC decided to write to Ruth and suddenly, after decades of silence, Ruth was about to get an explanation as to what happened to her first love.

“I let her know what my dad had done in his life – the kind of parent he was, the jobs he had, the way he had cared for his mother until she died aged 101 and how he nursed and cared for my mother as she fought pancreatic cancer,” KC explains.

Ruth, then caring for her husband Ralph, who had Alzheimer’s disease, said she would like to get in touch with Harry again.

Harry admits he was keen to make contact, but anxious about how she would react to him disappearing without contact. He decided to write to her.

“The first letter was an apology for the way I broke up with her 56 years ago,” Harry explains gently.

He was amazed when Ruth graciously accepted his humble apology. The pair decided to meet once again with Harry, Ruth and Ralph all becoming friends, regularly spending time together at Ruth and Ralph’s home in Arizona, and also travelling overseas as a trio.

“We respected each other and we had a firm friendship before my husband died. It was really, really nice to have him visit us, and it was helpful to have someone with me when I travelled with Ralph,” Ruth says.

After Ralph died in 2006, it soon became clear that Harry and Ruth’s old flame was still burning.

“I like to say that we looked at each other and said, ‘This ain’t going to end,'” Harry smiles.

Harry soon found himself travelling from San Francisco to Arizona to spend at least one week a month with Ruth and talking on the phone every day, until they both realised they were meant to be together.

“And since then, it gets better every day,” says Harry.

Last month the couple visited their Wellington matchmakers, who are amazed that a dinner party thousands of kilometres away and decades after the pair fell in love led to them reigniting that spark.

“I am so happy that my dad and Ruth have found each other again after so long. Few people get a second chance at love after such long marriages. I had known Martha for seven years and the topic of Pennsylvania had never come up. It makes me think about the things we might miss in life by not asking the right questions at the right time,” says KC.

Harry and Ruth are also grateful for the hand fate played in getting them back together. “Serendipity really does happen,” says Ruth.

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