Michigan high school sweethearts reunite after 73 years: ‘I fell for her all over again’

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It’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder — and for Bill Hassinger, 90, and Joanne Blakkan, 92, their hearts also grew in fondness after they reunited for the first time in 73 years.

Hassinger and Blakkan first met on a school bus on their way to their North Muskegon High School in Michigan, as Hassinger told Fox News Digital.

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After getting acquainted during their daily commute, Blakken, a junior at the time, started saving a seat for Hassinger, a freshman. 

“I was robbing the cradle,” she joked.

Bill Hassinger, left, and Joanne Blakkan, right, hadn’t seen each other for 73 years. In 2022, they reunited — rekindling their childhood love. (Linda Blakkan)

The pair eventually grew closer.

“[We] became more and more attracted to each other and then the next year was serious,” Blakkan said.

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“And in those days, you called it ‘going steady,’” she said. 

Bill Hassinger and Joanne Blakkan attend prom together 1979 credit Linda Blakkan

Hassinger accompanied Blakkan to her senior high school prom in 1949. (Linda Blakkan)

Hassinger took Blakkan to her senior prom in 1949 before she went off to Michigan State to study secretarial science.

“That first term, I would come home occasionally on weekends, and we still would go roller skating or whatever,” she continued.

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“But, gradually, I met the young man who became my husband and he was dating a young lady in high school — and we [she and Hassinger] just went our separate ways.”

They each started new lives with new significant others and never looked back.

Bill Hassinger in high school credit Linda Blakkan

Hassinger is two years younger than Blakkan, but that did not stop him from approaching her on the school bus one day. (Linda Blakkan)

Hassinger married a woman a year younger than him six months after the woman’s high school graduation, he said.

Three months after tying the knot, he enlisted in the United States Army.

After his time in the military, Hassinger worked for the state police and moved around Michigan with his wife and family for nearly 30 years.

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He was married to his wife for 68 years before she died. 

The couple had three children — two boys, who died when they were young, and a girl, Hassinger said.

Joanne Blakkan high school photo credit Linda Blakkan

After Blakkan graduated from high school, she parted ways with Hassinger and eventually found love again two years into college. (Linda Blakkan)

Blakkan also found love and got married two years into college.

She started working while her husband finished his education.

“In later years, I completed my degree at Eastern Michigan University when I was in my 50s, because all three of my children had college degrees by that time, and I felt like I was being left in the dust,” Blakkan said.

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She and her husband had three children together. The two were happily married until he died at age 57 of a heart attack.

“I have been a widow for a long, long time. [I had] no interest in dating or anything,” Blakkan said.

“We don’t know how much time we have together, but we’re just making the most of every day.”

— Joanne Blakkan

After all these years, Blakkan and Hassinger hadn’t thought about one another until Blakkan’s daughter, Linda Blakkan, started looking up some of her mother’s old classmates.

In her research, Blakkan found that Hassinger lived only 80 miles away from her — and that his wife had died the year before.

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Her daughter encouraged her to write him a letter — and a few days later, that fall of 2022, she received a call from none other than her high school sweetheart.

Joanne Blakkan and Bill Hassinger together credit Linda Blakkan

Blakkan asked her daughter, Linda Blakkan, to help her look up old friends from high school — and in her research, she found Hassinger as well as his address. (Linda Blakkan)

The two spoke for a while and Blakkan asked him if he ever came down to Muskegon, to which he replied, “I occasionally do.”

The pair decided to meet up — and even though it had been decades since they’d spent time together, it was as if no years had passed at all.

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“I hadn’t heard from her all these years, and I didn’t know her status or anything. But she was still the same Joanne to me, and I fell for [her] all over again,” Hassinger said.

Bill Hassinger and Joanne Blakkan visit one another every other weekend credit Linda Blakkan

It may have been 73 years since Hassinger and Blakkan last saw each other, but it was as if no time had passed at all, the couple said. (Linda Blakkan)

Blakkan said she was a bit more hesitant to enter a new relationship, since she had never thought of dating again, but after six weeks she came around.

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“If you feel the love for each other, then just spend time together because life is short, and we realize that now, at our age, we don’t know how much time we have together, but we’re just making the most of every day,” Blakkan said.

Joanne Blakkan and Bill Hassinger playing cards credit Linda Blakkan

No matter your age, you shouldn’t hesitate to be with the person you’re most compatible with, said Blakkan.  (Linda Blakkan)

There is still an 80-mile distance between the couple, so they see each other every other weekend and sometimes during the week for special occasions like Valentine’s Day.

They love to play card games or complete puzzles together, but they also spend quality time with each other’s supportive families.

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“[Linda Blakkan] made me feel very, very welcome in their family, as did her husband and children. And it still carries out that way. I feel very comfortable,” Hassinger shared about spending time with Joanne Blakkan, her daughter and the rest of their family.

Linda Blakkan had never heard her mother talk about Hassinger — but now has welcomed him into her home and family as if she’s known him for many years. 

high school sweethearts split

At the age of 90 and 92, Hassinger and Blakkan found love once again — just as they did when they were in high school. (Linda Blakkan)

Joanne Blakkan said that if you find someone you’re compatible with, no matter your age, don’t hesitate. 

Just “go for it,” she said. 

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