Journal & Courier - Lafayette, Ind.
Sep 26, 2011
After decades apart, local couples reconnect
The year was 1945. It was a good year for Mildred and Max Donoho of Frankfort.
World War II had just ended and Max, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was back in his hometown of Frankfort on furlough. Mildred was a teenage girl still living under her parent’s roof. Although an unlikely pairing, this was the beginning of something special.
The two met at a slumber party that Mildred was attending. “That’s where I met her and from there on it was love at first sight,” said Max, now 85.
But that love had to endure more than the typical trials of a relationship. It had to survive nearly 60 years apart.
What is it that makes love persevere or causes one to want to reconnect? Is it the spark in someone’s eye that you can’t forget or the moments you shared in the throes of young love?
Although strong and volatile, young love can be a powerful sentiment, said Buck Black, a couples counselor with Heartland Clinic in Lafayette. It typically takes place during the formative years, when teens are trying to establish identity and criteria for selecting romantic partners.
Although a high percentage of these first relationships end, they leave behind powerful impressions on the people involved, often making it difficult for future partners to live up to the “first loves” of adolescence, Black said.
“If they do break up and as time goes on, they will only remember the good and forget the bad,” Black said. “There are plenty of people who try to re-create that relationship, but people never match up. Sometimes, people go through all these dating partners trying to find someone who meets the criteria of their first love. But it’s just not realistic.”
Tammy Baumgardt first met Tracy Davis when the two were both in high school. It was the summer of 1994 and their romance was a summer fling.
At first Baumgardt was intimidated by Davis, who was a high school athlete. “I remember seeing him, and he looked up and smiled at me,” said Baumgardt, 35, of Colfax. “I was afraid he wouldn’t like me. He was a popular boy. He was into sports and I thought he was out of my league.”
Davis remembers Baumgardt’s “pretty eyes,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I remember,” said Davis, 36, of Colfax. “She seemed so shy and innocent.”
They dated that summer, but once school started the flames fizzled.
“I was hurt, upset, and my heart was broken,” Baumgardt said.
To this day, she refers to Davis as “the one who got away,” and her “Strawberry Wine,” after the popular 1996 country ballad sung by Deana Carter. The song details the emotional turbulence of young summer love that ultimately ends.
A match made on Facebook
They went their separate ways and, after two divorces each, the couple recently reconnected.
Black said the impetus for reconnecting with past loves goes back to the tendency to idealize those early romantic relationships. Also, some people like to return to what feels comfortable instead of trying to meet someone new.
Today, social media also plays a role in why people reconnect with past loves. “Facebook has a lot to do with this,” Black said. “It’s so easy to find people from your past.”
After the divorce from her second husband in the fall of 2011, Baumgardt found Davis on Facebook. To her surprise, he was married, according to the website.
“I felt a little crushed,” she said. “But (I) was happy to see he looked happy.”
A few months later, she received a friend request on Facebook from Davis. “I was shocked at first,” she said. “I was ecstatic. I went into work giddy like a schoolgirl.”
The two began texting and shortly after that, started dating. They’ve been reconnected for the last 10 months.
Tammy believes fate had a hand in bringing them back together, and her reconnection with Davis has affirmed her belief in the adage that everything happens for a reason, she said.
“I would like to think there’s a stronger power that had a hand in it,” she said. “I don’t think we were meant for back then. I think we were meant for now.”
'Never too late'
Max and Mildred dated for several years, but eventually Mildred moved to Wolcott.
“My father wanted me to move to Wolcott because he thought we were getting too close,” Mildred said.
“I don’t blame her dad,” Max said. “I would feel the same way about my daughter.”
Max visited her in Wolcott, but by that time Mildred was already dating the man she would marry.
“It’s kind of hard to stay together when you are that far apart,” Max said. “It doesn’t work too good if you get too far apart.”
The distance ended the relationship. They married other people and started families of their own. Mildred had four children during her first marriage and Max had three.
Over the years, Mildred would ask her sister Marilyn Nall, who still lived in Frankfort, about Max. “I just wanted to know what was going on,” she said. “I had no idea things would turn out the way they did, but I’m very happy with it.”
After both of their spouses died, Max decided to ask Nall about Mildred. He wanted to know where she was living.
“We really got along and we always have,” Max said. “We got along when we split up, and we still stayed friends.”
Nall even acted as a matchmaker and invited Max over without telling Mildred. “I made sure I got there before she did,” Max said.
He helped Mildred up the stairs of Nall’s porch before she recognized him as the love of her youth.
“I was shocked,” she said. “We just had a good time after that. We went over to Columbian Park (in Lafayette) and reminisced.”
The two dated for a year before getting married in September. Max was 85 years old and Mildred was 83.
“It’s never too late to work at it,” Max said.