17 again: love renews this Valentine’s Day
Bob Crothers and Annette Young have plenty of reasons to celebrate this Valentine’s Day.
Two years ago, the high school sweethearts reunited after 54 years apart. Last year, they bought a home together at Bolton Clarke’s Baycrest retirement village in Hervey Bay. This year, they plan to get married.
“We feel like we’re 17 again,” said Annette. “It’s brought life back to both of us.”
Just days after they reunited, Bob spontaneously proposed outside Annette’s hairdresser.
“I never got her out of my head,” said Bob.
The pair first met in 1968 when Bob was in the RAAF based at Wagga Wagga and Annette lived in Junee with her family. As the song goes, she was 16 and he, 17.
They met at a dance and Bob walked her home, stopping for a kiss on the way.
“He was my first kiss,” Annette said.
They fell madly in love.
While they were still teenagers, circumstances changed and Bob moved out to Townsville, leaving Annette behind in Junee.
Annette says despite them being separated, the 1960s were the best times.
“I was a little hippie girl with a fringe and flowers in my hair. But I never got over Bob, I missed him terribly. You never forget your first love.”
They’ve since discovered that some time after their separation, Bob had written Annette a letter – but sent it to Junee, instead of Sydney, where she had moved to work as a journalist.
“I worked for Packer, and Ita Buttrose was my boss.”
As life went on, they each married other partners and had their children but neither marriage turned out to be life-long.
Over the years Bob had reached out to reconnect as old friends but Annette’s priorities as a single mother led her to decline the invitation.
“I was then a single mother whose first priority was to raise my children and give them the best life I could.”
One day, many years later, Annette caught up with a girlfriend she hadn’t seen in 50 years, and Bob’s name was mentioned.
“My friend said that she could find him – and I told her that if she did, she should say hello from me – and find him she did.”
Bob says he nearly fell over when he got the call.
“I told her to get Annette on my phone immediately!” he said.
They talked for hours and discovered that they had each been separated for many years.
“There was no stopping him from coming to me this time,” said Annette.
Bob got in the car straight away.
“As soon as she said I could come and see her I dropped everything and drove straight there – 12 hours in the car and I only stopped for fuel,” he said.
“When I got there, she ‘attacked’ me straight away!”
Now reunited, they were transported back in time.
“I took her back to Junee on that trip, to the spot where we first kissed.”
“When he laughed, it was like we were kids at that dance again,” said Annette. “We had some unfinished business.
“He waited three days and then proposed to me! He got on bended knee with a single rose out the front of my hairdresser and of course I said yes!”
They picked out the ring together three months later.
“I told her to pick the best solitaire we could find,” said Bob. “She deserves it, she’s so thoughtful – when I had to leave after I’d first proposed she dried out the rose I’d bought and put it in my suitcase for me. I found it when I got home.”
“All those years, I had never lost the picture of her out of my head. I’ve never experienced love like I have with Annette.”
They both sold their family homes and moved to Baycrest with Annette’s dog Elvis.
“This is our forever home,” said Annette. “Where we will live happily ever after.”