It was love at first sight for college lovebirds Janice Rude and Prentiss Willson. After weeks of shy glances in the cafeteria, the two would eventually fall in love. The crazy students were so infatuated that they would end up getting engaged. It seemed that everything was working out for the pair – until an angry force caused them to break off the engagement and move in different directions with their lives. Almost half a decade later, tragedy would strike and bring them together again, but the second time around things were incredibly different.
A Classic Love Story Begins
Janice Rude and Prentiss Willson were just two unsuspecting college students back in the early ’60s. They would eventually fall in love while studying at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California.
Rude was a sophomore working towards a biology degree, while Willson was a freshman getting acquainted with college life. They didn’t know of each other’s existence until one day, Willson caught a glimpse of Rude at the campus cafeteria. From that moment, he couldn’t look away. Little did he know, but they were about to embark on the romance of a lifetime.
Of Course, It Was Love At First Sight
Prentiss Willson and Janice Rude’s first encounter happened in that same cafeteria. It was a chance meeting in 1962. Rude was at the cafeteria working her shift when Willson dropped in to grab a bite to eat.
Neither knew that the other would be there, but the moment that they locked eyes, something clicked. That something would turn out to be love at first sight. Unfortunately, both Rude and Willson were shy at the time so they didn’t even say a word to each other! They couldn’t even look at each other without blushing.
Janice Rude Was Taught A Very Important Lesson
Before we get into their romance, let’s backtrack a bit. Prior to enrolling at Occidental College, Janice Rude was a humble girl born and raised in Reno, Nevada. At an early age, Rude’s father taught her that she must work hard in order to be successful in life.
Since Rude deeply respected her father, that was an important lesson that she carried with her into her adulthood. Though her parents never pushed her to go to college, they supported her when she made the decision. For her, being successful meant obtaining a college degree.
Prentiss Willson’s Future Was All Laid Out
Prentice Willson came from the other side of the tracks. Willson was brought up in a family that was well off, so suffice it to say that he was set on a certain path in life. When he first got to Occidental College, Willson joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity as part of his plans for a bright future.
Willson’s well-to-do parents had very high expectations for their son. He was enrolled as a law student and quickly became the president of his fraternity. It seemed his future was all laid out – that is, until he laid eyes on Rude.
Willson Starts Building His Reputation
But before Rude entered the picture, Prentiss Willson was already making a name for himself at Occidental College. When black student Gene Grigsby wanted to join Kappa Sigma, the national fraternity union refused Grigsby’s pledge on the sold basis of his skin color.
Seeing the injustice of this, Willson – as president – took the frat out of the national fraternity union and made it an independent chapter so that Grigsby could join. Willson’s freshman year was already monumental in that he became president, but now he was making waves at his school.
Willson Woke Up Early Just To See Rude At Work
Meanwhile, Janice Rude was hard at work. Coming from a humble background, her father provided some financial support for her college tuition but it wasn’t enough. To help pay for all of it, Rude took an on-campus job and started working shifts at the cafeteria.
It was a job that required Rude to come to school quite early in the morning. By this time, Rude and Willson had seen each other. When he realized how early she would go into work, Willson started waking up extra early in order to be the first one in line at the cafeteria.
Their Crushes Blossomed Into Something More
Eventually, Rude and Willson would get over their shyness. Soon, their demure glances had evolved into small talk, and even that eventually progressed into full-blown conversations. Willson – who remembers the encounters as “love at first sight” – would wake up early every day to see Rude.
“I believe we were simply meant to be. I even remember the first time I laid eyes on Janice,” Willson would later reminisce to the press. Their morning encounters became a routine and on days where Willson didn’t show up, Rude would start to grow concerned.
They Looked Forward To Seeing Each Other Every Morning
Willson’s crush became so intense that he’d routinely head to the campus cafeteria “every day, at 6:00 am, because I just wanted to see her and have our little early morning exchange,” he would later recall.
Little did he know in those days that Rude looked forward to those encounters as well. Every morning as she got ready for her cafeteria shift, she would secretly hope that Willson would be in her line. Her favorite station to work at was the cereal bar, because she was sure to run into Willson there.
Rude Gave Willson Motivation
Though Willson was a freshman, he was settling into college life with ease. As a law student and fraternity president, he was already doing much more than the average college freshman. He even avoided the Freshman 15 by going on morning runs!
What gave him the motivation for these early runs was the hope of seeing Rude later that morning. It was usually after his runs that he’d go to the cafeteria to have breakfast and of course, see his crush. Surprisingly, this had gone on for weeks but neither of them even knew each other’s names!
The Freshman Didn’t Think He Had A Chance With A Sophomore
As a freshman, Willson was already somewhat of the “Big Man” around campus. But that didn’t mean he was entirely confident he could score the girl. In fact, he didn’t think he stood a chance with Rude!
“I actually didn’t think I had a chance with her. She was a year ahead of me and just so beautiful,” he would later recall. Little did this freshman know, that his crush was feeling the same way. Their daily morning encounters were making Rude fall for Willson just the same, even if the meetings were just for a few minutes.
It Took Almost A Month For Them To Learn Each Other’s Names
After three and a half weeks of wistful glances and casual flirting, Prentiss Willson finally learned his crush’s name: Janice Rude. Willson would never forget that name for the rest of his life and hoped that she would learn his name too.
Rude actually learned his name already, when she saw the story in the news of how Willson helped Grigsby pledge into his fraternity. The publicity surrounding Willson’s revolutionary act only made Rude fall for him even more. The crush grew so strong that by Thanksgiving break, Rude would do something completely crazy!
The Thanksgiving Dinner That Ended In Disappointment
Thanksgiving is often students’ first break from classes out of the school year. Occidental College hosts a pre-Thanksgiving dinner for all its students as a way for them to get to know each other better before they leave for the break.
Janice Rude was one student who was quite excited for this campus event. She was particularly looking forward to this dinner so that she could get to know Prentiss Willson. She arrived at the campus cafeteria for her shift during the dinner only that time, something was amiss. Prentiss Willson never showed up.
She Went To Great Lengths To Find Out Where He Was
Janice Rude was so struck by Willson’s absence that she needed to find out where he was or if something had happened to him. Luckily, she ran into one of his friends, who told her that he had left campus early to go home and be with his family.
This is when she went to great lengths just to see her crush. Determined, she found out where Willson lived. With his address in hand, she wondered what she should do with it. Should she try to go see him? Or should she just wait and see him after break was over?
She Decided To Go For It
For Janice Rude, the answer was clear. She had fallen for Willson, which is why in the end she decided to go see him. Willson lived 160 miles away from campus in Santa Maria, California. Rude got into her car and drove there on a whim.
For her, the distance was no issue and the three hours it took her to get to Willson’s house breezed by. But by the time she arrived in Santa Maria and rolled up to the Willson residence, the weight of what she had just done set in.
She Decided To Knock On The Door Anyway
Janice Rude froze at Prentiss Willson’s doorstep. She realized she was completely nuts for driving all that way to see someone she only had passing conversations with in the cafeteria. She hadn’t even called him to let him know she was coming!
You’d think having that much doubt would just prompt her to walk away at that point. But Rude wasn’t going to have driven all that way for nothing! She decided to just knock on the door and see what happened. When it opened, her heart nearly stopped at who she had seen!
Rude Met The Entire Willson Family
When Janice Rude knocked on the door of the Willson residence, none other than Prentiss himself answered the door. Rude’s heart skipped a beat and Willson was shocked. Ultimately, however, he was pleased that she came all that way to see him.
In fact, he says that he was thinking about her when she happened to knock on his door! What would have been an awkward encounter turned out to be a delight as Willson’s parents even invited Rude to join them for Thanksgiving dinner. Everything was working out for the crushes, but it wouldn’t last long.
Prentiss Willson’s Family Really Liked Janice Rude
Thankfully, Willson’s parents were just as taken with Rude as he was. Willson’s mother in particular felt an instant connection with the young woman, which was a huge relief to both of them.
Rude’s bold move had worked in her favor. After thanking the Willsons for a lovely dinner, Rude knew not to overstay her welcome and drove the three hours back to campus. A few days later, Willson would return too, but neither of them knew that Thanksgiving night had been a turning point in their blossoming romance. Soon, things were about to change.
Rude And Willson Were Young And In Love
When Rude and Willson returned to campus following Thanksgiving, everything changed. Their crushes had developed into a full-blown relationship. Those weeks of chatting in the cafeteria for a few minutes had immediately blossomed into a courtship.
The new couple was inseparable and spent all of their free time together. Nothing could come between them. Everyone on campus knew they were together. Whenever people saw Rude and Willson together on campus, the couple was always smiling at each other. The lovebirds felt as if they were meant to be together, which led them to do something crazy.
Prentiss Willson Decided To Propose To Janice Rude
Janice Rude and Prentiss Willson were so in love that one day, Willson decided to follow his heart, take the leap, and propose to Rude. The moment Willson got down on one knee, Rude knew she would say yes.
It’s crazy what you would do when you’re young and in love. After all, they had only known each other for a few short months before deciding to get married. Much of that short period of time was spent merely staring at each other and it had taken weeks before they started talking to each other and even learned each other’s names.
They Announced The Engagement In The Paper
Prentiss and Rude’s engagement was so exciting that it was even announced in the local paper. They couldn’t have been happier to be engaged, despite the fact that they only knew each other for a few months before taking the plunge.
The more time they spent together, the more they got to know each other. And the more they learned about each other, the more they fell in love. It seemed that nothing could stand in the way of their young love — that is, until the following January when Rude’s father found out and felt the need to get involved.
Rude’s Father Gave Her An Ultimatum
Mr. Rude wasn’t the least bit pleased to discover that his daughter Janice had decided to get engaged. He thought that she was too young and that this was not a wise move, especially while she was in the middle of working toward her degree.
He gave Janice an ultimatum: she would either have to break up with Willson or he would stop helping her pay for her college tuition. Janice’s fate was now in her own hands. She was being forced to choose between the two things in her life that she loved the most.
Rude Was Faced With Some Major Decisions
Janice Rude was completely flabbergasted by her father’s reaction to her engagement. She couldn’t afford to go to college on her own, but she had finally found true love. For a while, Rude didn’t know what she should do.
Even more awkward, the engagement was already announced in the local paper, so everyone knew. Calling it off would be a social embarrassment. Rude looked at the announcement again and studied the last words: “no date has been set for the wedding.” It seemed like a warning at the time, but it was also a sign.
Rude Didn’t Know If She Should Follow Her Dreams Or Follow Her Heart
Rude and Willson were heartbroken by her father’s imposition. For Rude, her education was incredibly important to her — especially since her father had taught her to work hard to be successful. It wasn’t like she was just going to give that up.
At the same time, however, she knew she was madly in love with Willson. Anyone who experienced that feeling knows that that isn’t just something you can give up. It changes you for the rest of your life. This made the decision even harder, but suddenly, Rude’s mother intervened with a solution.
Her Mother’s Help Wasn’t Enough
Rude’s mother decided to take out a second mortgage on the family home in order to help supplement her daughter’s college expenses. This was all done with the hope that her daughter could follow her heart and be with Willson.
Sadly, Rude’s mother’s efforts were fruitless and it wasn’t enough. She was again faced with the decision to follow her dreams or follow her heart. Rude at least had enough sense in her to know that the wise decision was to follow her dreams. As much as it hurt, she called off the engagement and broke up with Willson.
Willson Didn’t Understand Rude’s Dilemma
Janice Rude later recalled, “My father forced us apart the following January by refusing to pay my tuition if I didn’t ‘stop seeing that boy.’ Prentiss and I should have taken his mother’s advice at the time, which was to elope. I became fearful that Prentiss would be attracted to smarter women if I didn’t get a college degree. He did not understand my angst, and so we went our separate ways.”
Willson’s inability to empathize with Rude was the final nail in the coffin. Rude decided to complete her degree and leave Willson behind. But she would never forget him.
Their Lives Grew Apart
After breaking up, Rude and Willson’s lives drifted further apart. After getting her biology degree, Rude went on to run the family business. The Rude family operated a diving board company. Their success was hallmarked by Rude’s induction into the USA Diving Association Hall of Fame in Seattle.
For Willson’s part, after leaving Occidental College, he moved on to Harvard Law School. Becoming a tax attorney, he moved back to the west coast and settled in the Bay Area. They both had accomplished their career goals. Little did they know, but fate would bring them back together.
They Both Moved On With Their Lives
Following the breakup, Rude and Willson would still run into each other on campus, but they acted as friends. Their whirlwind engagement was buried deep in the past. After leaving Occidental College, their lives grew even further apart.
Once they accomplished their career goals, they even went on to marry other people. Forty-seven years later, both of them were divorced yet their paths had never crossed since college. But one day after tragedy struck in both of their lives, they’d make shocking discoveries that would cause their worlds to intertwine once again.
Their Mothers Had Kept The Engagement Announcement
Both Rude’s and Willson’s mothers died within a few short months of each other. They both had to sort through their mothers’ belongings and found something that caused all the memories to come back.
Rude and Willson discovered that each of their mothers had kept the couple’s engagement announcement from all those years ago. Rude’s mother kept it laminated in her purse! Rude and Willson hadn’t even thought of each other much since they moved on, but this discovery brought it all back. “The mothers got it. The mothers simply knew, and I think we also knew,” they’d recall.
They Decided To See Each Other Again
Being reminded of that special time in their lives, Willson decided to reach out to Rude. She agreed to meet him in San Francisco, at a restaurant called Cliff House. June 20, 2010, was the date they reunited.
From the moment she saw Willson for the first time in 47 years, Rude knew that there was still something there. Willson felt the spark too and they pretty much just picked up from where they’d left off. They began dating again for six months before getting engaged for a second time!
They Got Married Where It All Started
This time, there was a date set for the wedding. Janice Rude and Prentiss Willson wasted no time this go-around and got married on August 19, 2012. Their relationship had come full circle, as they decided to get married at the Occidental College campus surrounded by family, friends, and their former classmates.
“We lament every day that we missed being together. That’s about 17,500 days – but who’s counting?” Rude said in an interview. If there’s anything this story will teach you, it’s that true love always finds a way. It took almost 50 years, but Rude and Willson found their way back together.