An interracial couple was pressured to break up. Decades later, they married.

For most of her adult life, 69-year-old Jeanne Gustavson has suffered from chronic regret for breaking up with her college sweetheart.

"I can't turn back the clock. I wish I could," Gustavson told CBS News. "I would have married him."

Gustavson met her college sweetheart, Steve Watts, in German club at Loyola University in Chicago. She said he would have made the perfect husband — if only he'd been White.

"My mother was absolutely livid," she said. "What didn't she say? How could I disgrace the family. It was not pretty."

Partly because of those pressures, Gustavson broke up with her boyfriend and they never saw each other again — until 2021, when she tracked him down at a Chicago nursing home.

"What I found was sort of a broken man," she said.

Like Gustavson, Watts was divorced with no kids. But life for him had been much harder. He had been homeless, suffered two strokes and was almost unrecognizable the day Gustavson walked back into his life.

"But he's still the wonderful, gorgeous man that I knew," Gustavson said.

Jeanne Gustavson and Steve Watts / Credit: CBS News
Jeanne Gustavson and Steve Watts / Credit: CBS News

Their feelings for each other came rushing back. And with her mother no longer in the way, Gustavson made arrangements to move Watts from the nursing home to her home in Portland, Oregon.

"I feel terribly lucky that I get a second chance — we both get a second chance," she said.

Watts' health issues have left him bedridden, but his mind is sharp and his heart is young. He's still devoted to Gustavson after all these years.

Race drove its wedge, but love wormed its way back — permanently.

A few weeks ago — 43 years after her mom laid their love asunder — Gustavson and Watts were married. They're newlyweds now, on their way making up for a lifetime of lost time.

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