Former U.S. airman rekindles love with woman he met while in Britain with the military 20 years ago after tracking her down online
11:49 GMT, 2 August 2012
A couple who split up because their jobs took them to different parts of the world have reunited 20 years later after tracking each other down online.
American Joe McDonald and British Claire Walker now plan to marry and 'grow old together' after two decades apart.
The couple first met in 1989 when Joe, then 18, was posted to a base in Fairford, Gloucestershire, with his job in the U.S. Air Force, near Claire's home town of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.
Reunited: Claire Walker and Joe McDonald got back together 20 years after they first met after tracking one another down again online
They spent a romantic year together and planned to marry but were forced to split up and lost contact when Joe was posted to Florida with his job.
Claire, who was 24 and moved at a supermarket when she first met Joe, said she was 'heartbroken' when he had to leave. 'We had such a great time
together, we were just like any young couple in love. We would have
liked to have got married but his parents said he was too young,' she said.
'It was different back then, there was
no internet or mobile phones. He had my address but he never got back
in touch and I was so upset.'
The following year, Claire went to Spain on a work holiday and fell in love again with a man who she stayed in Spain to marry. They had a son, now 13, and a daughter, now 15.
She said: 'I went to Spain on a work holiday and
ended up falling for a guy there who became my husband. I was on the
rebound from Joe and I just stayed over there.
'I kept thinking about Joe, every time
I saw Afghanistan on the news I would wonder if he was flying there but
I never thought I would hear from him again.'
As they were: Joe was 18 and Claire was 24 when they first fell in love in 1989 when he was posted to the UK with his job in the U.S. Air Force
In fact, Joe had been trying to get in touch with Claire. He tried contacting the Morrison’s store where she used to work in Nailsworth but as she had moved to Spain he was unable to track her down.
He left the U.S. Air Force after six years of service and moved to Louisiana where he met his wife on a blind date, with whom he had a son, now 11.
But by 2009, both Joe and Claire's marriages had begun to sour and they divorced.
Joe – who had kept a picture of him
and Claire from 1989 – decided to get back in touch with his sweetheart
and posted a message on website www.nailsworth.com.
It read: 'My name is Joe McDonald and I
was stationed at RAF Fairford from 1990 – 1992 and met a wonderful
person named Claire Walker from Nailsworth. She use to work at the Town Centre Supermarket but I forget the name. She had a brother that was training to fly. I would love to get in touch with Claire if anyone could help me.'
Claire’s brother Brett spotted the message and called his sister to get her to have a look.
Wedding bells: Now the couple plan to marry and spend the rest of their lives together as Claire and her children will move to the U.S
She recalls: 'One day, when I was in a hard
place because of my divorce, my brother phoned and said, “you’ll never
guess who is looking for you”, and told me to go on the website.
'My heart just stopped. Within 24 hours I had sent him an email and we were falling in love again.'
The couple continued to keep in touch via email and then Claire flew to meet Joe in Kansas City and spent a week with him.
'I was at the airport and I felt a
shaking hand touch me on the shoulder. I looked round and it was Joe. I
had butterflies, it felt exactly as it had 20 years ago,' she said.
After keeping the relationship going long-distance for two years, the couple now plan to marry – with Claire, now 47, and her children set to move in with Joe, now 40, in Kansas City, Missouri, next year.
Joe said: 'I’d always thought about Claire. I knew she would still be beautiful. Our goal is now to grow old together.'