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Published: Sunday, 4/17/2005

Rekindling love with the one who got away

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Connie Langenderfer and Steve Poitinger, who met before they were students at Whitmer High School, reunited recently and plan to be married. Connie Langenderfer and Steve Poitinger, who met before they were students at Whitmer High School, reunited recently and plan to be married.
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It was an attempted kiss at a crowded school bus stop that nipped the budding romance of two young teens at Whitmer High School.

I was quite infatuated with her in seventh and eighth grades. I thought she was the cutest thing, says Steve Poitinger, 51. By ninth grade, he and Connie were holding hands and yakking on the phone after school. I thought she was committed to me and I to her.

But that kiss was a deal breaker. Connie literally shrank away. She was embarrassed by the whole thing, he says. It kind of broke my heart.

As Connie Langenderfer put it, I got the heebee jeebees.

The following year, Steve met Karen, who would become his wife for 31 years until her death to breast cancer in 2003. I was emotionally devastated, he says.

Connie, who had married and divorced, sent him a condolence card, and a few months later, called him. Eventually, he returned the call. They met for a game of Scrabble and a bite to eat.

It was as if I had always known him. I still thought he was as cute as in seventh grade, Connie says.

A year later, they re engaged and planning to move with his job from Michigan to North Carolina.

I think you always hold a special spot in your heart for someone that you first felt love for, says Mr. Poitinger, a marketing manager for BASF Corp.

Added Connie: I always thought about him. I liked his eyes and he has a great smile.

In February, she quit her job as a human resource specialist at the University of Toledo and moved to his home in Rochester Hills, Mich.

It s not uncommon to wonder about the one that got away. He or she may have been a first love or a longed-for crush, a lunch pal, a neighbor, a charmer met on a voyage, or an underclassman who adored the ground you walked on, but it would be years before you realized what a good catch they were.

Lots of major life events can fire up the engines of interest -- a 50th birthday, children leaving home, divorce or death of a spouse.

Some famous rekindled loves include high school sweethearts Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian, who were 82 and 83 respectively when they tied the knot in 2003. Actors Suzanne Pleshette, 68, and Tom Poston, 83, romanced in the late 1950s but moved on to long, happy marriages to others. After their spouses died, they fell in love and wed in 2001.

Actress Donna Hanover, once married to the famously-unfaithful Rudy Giuliani, wed her teenaged beau, Ed Oster, in 2003, a year after reuniting.

And of course, there is Prince Charles and his long-time love, Camilla Parker Bowles, who weathered first marriages to others and enormous public criticism before formalizing their relationship April 9 after 35 years of on-and-off romance.

Rekindled love can be happier, more intense, and more sexually satisfying than other romances, according to researcher Nancy Kalish, author of Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances (William Morrow, 1997).

In her survey of 1,200 people, 24 percent say they would or might reunite with an early relationship.

Occurring at an impressionable time, young love often becomes the gold standard by which other romances are measured. The most successful rekindlers were 17 or younger at the time of the initial romance, and among that group, the divorce rate is a mere 1.5 percent, says Kalish, a psychology professor at California State University in Sacramento

A survey responded to by 1,000 people registered at the Internet site Classmates.com (and who may, therefore, already be looking), showed that 59 percent had thought about their old flame in the last year, and 26 percent had used the Internet to look up or reconnect with a former boyfriend or girlfriend. They are likely to have shared a common background and values.

It was Sept. 17, 1977, when Rick Spain asked Jill Prill to be his girl. They were 13 and sat across from each at summer band in Monroe, Mich.

Music brought them together: Rick Spain and Jill Prill met in band class the summer they were 13; music is an interest they still share. Music brought them together: Rick Spain and Jill Prill met in band class the summer they were 13; music is an interest they still share.
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They dated, on and off, until 1984. She was heartbroken when they spilt up, says Ms. Prill, of West Toledo. I never got over it.

They married others and divorced. A few years ago, her sister-in-law told her a guy had called her brother, trying to track her down. I called him right away, she says.

She met Rick for dinner, and for the next few years, had long phone conversations every day.

I think there is such a thing as the one says Ms. Prill. We needed some time apart to grow up.

Now 41, they plan to marry on Sept. 17.

Charlotte Kehoe realizes she may be the one that got away for a fellow she graduated with in 1949. He was a basketball star at their New Jersey high school, and they had gone to a formal dance together.

He came over several times but finally gave up. He was too shy to pursue the relationship, says Ms. Kehoe, 72, of Lambertville.

She married and had a busy life raising six children and now two teenaged grandchildren.

When a class reunion was being planned about 10 years ago, she received a letter from him. They write each other every few months, and he sends her Christmas gifts and birthday cards.

He comes across as being a super-sweet, caring guy, says Ms. Kehoe, a widow. However, she will not pursue the relationship because he is married. If he wasn t, that would be a different thing.

Some young loves remain unrequited, like a broken record stuck on the same groove.

Carol Foster, a second-grade teacher in Toledo, was madly in love with Brad, her college boyfriend in Texas. I ve never had a relationship like that, she says.

They were inseparable: singing in the same group, attending the same church, and close to each other s families. They would live happily ever after; she was sure of it.

But her family moved to Ohio, and he later moved to Michigan. When she did see him, he was attentive and warm, but he never initiated contact. There was never a moment when he said, we can t see each other anymore.

He married a woman he met through his church.

Ms. Foster, 52, married and divorced twice. All during her first marriage, she dreamt about Brad. It didn t end the marriage, but it was a factor, she says. I still dream about him.

It s been close to 30 years since she s seen him, and she believes she needs closure.

Her reaction surprises her she s assertive and outspoken. I should get over it, don t you think? she laughs. She would not disrupt his marriage, she says. But if he was divorced, I d be calling tomorrow.

The devastating loss of his father three years ago got New York writer Lee Schreiber thinking about why he never settled down with a woman and had a family. The love of his life was a woman he dated on and off from 18 to 24 years of age, until she broke up when he refused to commit to marriage.

Twenty-five years later he wondered if getting to know her again would provide answers. Perhaps, he had idealized her.

I think it s human nature to look at the past and think about how much more wonderful it was then, he says. The music was better. The drugs were better. It takes on a mythic quality.

He contacted her, they had dinner, and corresponded through e-mail. The level of our conversations were very deep.

What transpired, including her husband s reactions, are the subject of The One That Got Away: The Kind of Love You Never Recover From, that will be published this summer by Bonus Books. I m writing it and living it in real time.

I wasn t necessarily tracking her down to date her again. It was to get closure. Even ex-girlfriends say, I think it s time to get this out of your system you should contact Sarah.

Mr. Schreiber won t reveal how the story ends. I think I m a better man for living through this. I would recommend it except for people who are in troubled marriages.

When the song, My Boyfriend s Back was played at Donna Hanover and Edwin Oster s wedding in August, 2003, guests broke into riotous cheers. Thirty-some years earlier, Ed had broken up with Donna, saying he wasn t ready for marriage.

Since the January publication of her book about lost-and-found love stories, My Boyfriend s Back, she s heard from 500 rekindled romancers. Readers interested in telling her their stories can contact her at www.myboyfriendsback.com.

It s a huge movement, says Ms. Hanover, 55, an actress and host of the syndicated television program Fine Living Homes & Hideaways. People are healthier longer, divorcing more, and enhancing their sex lives with drugs such as Viagra and estrogens, she noted. And there s the Internet, which seems to reduce inhibitions.

Checking Internet sites for former high school classmates, people sometimes stumble upon friends they didn t date, but remember as being delightful. This is such a wonderful way to find someone; a safe way, she says.

The honeymoon isn t over for her young marriage. I feel so blessed. I m cherished. We leave love notes. We hold hands.

Studying rekindlers since 1993, California psychologist Nancy Kalish cautions people about contacting or responding to a lost love, especially if either party is married.

The way the Internet is going, it s creating a huge extramarital rate, she says. People need to think. They need to be told that these feelings can come back.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.



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