Love at first sight seems to only happen in fairy tales and romcoms. Well, believe it or not, some people experience it firsthand. We’ve all read Romeo and Juliet, or heard stories about forbidden love. Somehow, forbidden love is always the purest form of love. Unfortunately, it’s not just in storybooks; many people have to choose between their family’s approval and their soulmate.
Janice Rude and Prentiss Willson knew they were meant to be as soon as they locked eyes for the first time. They were both students at Occidental College in Los Angeles when they met back in 1962. The couple was head over heels for each other and planned a beautiful future together. Sadly, shortly after announcing their engagement, the pair went their separate ways. About 50 years after they broke up, both Janice and Prentiss made a shocking discovery that brought them back together.
Janice Rude was a hard worker who came from humble beginnings. She was raised in the wild west of Reno Nevada and described her dad as a tough guy who was extremely street smart. Her intellectual dreams weren’t something he really thought much about; to be honest, it was beyond his care or comprehension. But he knew his daughter wanted to get an education, so he supported her.
In the early 1960s, Janice enrolled in Occidental College with her dad’s blessing. Her goal was to get her bachelor’s degree in biology, and that was her main focus. She never expected to meet someone special, let alone the love of her life.
Occidental College, the school Janice went to, was a small liberal arts college. It is located in Los Angeles, California, and was established in by Presbyterians in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, back in 1887. They wanted to learn in Southern California, so they did the logical thing; they established a school over there.
In 1912 and in 1931, the Occidental Board thought of turning the school into an all men’s college. However, it ultimately kept its co-ed status, and it worked out positively for Janice and Prentiss. If Occidental was just a men’s school, they might have never met and fallen in love.
Growing up under modest circumstances, Janice was used to working hard. She picked up a job working morning at the campus cafeteria to help pay her expensive private school tuition. Committed and motivated, Janice woke up early each morning to start the morning shift. Her day had an early start, but she didn’t mind at all.
Right when she gets to the cafeteria, the action and activity started, thanks to the athletes. They showed up pretty early for breakfast so that they could make it to their early morning practice. With her job serving food, Janice got the chance to meet many students that attended the small school, but there was only one who really mattered to her.
Prentiss Willson was raised differently than Janice. He grew up in a well off family of east coast transplants. His family was full of intellectuals, and he was expected to study hard, complete his education, and then move on to start an impressive and respected career — something along the lines of medicine or law. It sure sounds like a lot of pressure to me.
In 1962, just one year after Janice began her studies at Occidental College, Prentiss Williams got there. Keeping up with his family traditions, he immediately pledged the fraternity Kappa Sigma. Shortly after his arrival, the fraternity got caught up in a lot of controversy; but we’ll get to that later.
After school was in session for about a month, Janice was getting used to her early morning routine and her job at the cafeteria. She walked in through the back entrance of the kitchen as she normally would, hung up her purse, put on an apron, and was ready for work. She took a look at the station schedule that was pinned to a bulletin board in the back.
She saw that she was given the cereal station, her favorite. She was excited that she got cereal because it was the least messy station to work. She ran to the counter to start her shift and saw a handsome young man waiting for some service. At that moment, her heart stopped.
It was Prentiss’s freshman year of college, and he felt like he was settling in pretty well. He was full of motivation, so a month into the semester, he forced himself to wake up early so that he could go for a run, and get some exercise in before classes began. He went to the cafeteria for a hardy breakfast before his workout.
Prentiss served himself some eggs, bacon, and buttered toast. That sounds healthy; all he needs is an apple and a glass of milk, and his basic food groups are covered. Anyway, he got there super early, so he was first in line. The morning waitress went over to serve him, and their eyes met for the first time.
When Janice Rude and Prentiss Willson looked at each other for the first time, it was as if time stopped. I thought that only happens in movies. Janice immediately got butterflies in her stomach and started to blush, but Prentiss thought she looked like she was glowing. She was filled with joy and warmth.
Whenever he looked at her, he practically couldn’t breathe because of how beautiful she was. Janice felt the exact same way, but she was so shy and looked away. She completed the transaction, and even though she broke their gaze, Prentiss was hooked. He couldn’t stop thinking about the pretty girl he met that morning at the cafeteria.
Janice was good motivation for Prentiss to go running. The next morning, and basically every morning after that, Prentiss woke up at 5:30 in the morning so that he could be first in line at Janice’s station. Who wouldn’t want to see their crush before their morning run each day? Janice was just as excited to see Prentiss.
Whenever she looked up and saw him there holding his tray, she couldn’t help but smile. But the shy waitress looked away from him as soon as she felt herself starting to blush. However, after seeing him each and every morning, she got braver around him. Eventually, she was able to return his gaze without turning away.
Prentiss wanted nothing more than to talk to her already. For a few weeks now, each morning on the way to the dining hall, he thought about what he would say to her. He tried to work up the courage to say something, but as soon as he saw her smiling at him, he could barely breathe, let alone speak.
Every morning he woke up with the intention to talk to her and then left the cafeteria disappointed when he didn’t. One day he finally got the guts to talk to her… well, he was able to get the word “hello” out of his mouth. She answered “hi” softly, and as usual, she blushed and looked away as soon as her cheeks turned red.
It took him more than three weeks, but finally, he found out this beautiful girl’s name: Janice Rude. Her name rang in his head continuously, and all he could think about was her. He could barely focus on his morning lecture. After he introduced himself, Janice thought the name “Prentiss Willson” sounded familiar.
She remembered exactly where she heard that name before. His fraternity, Kappa Sigma, publicly quit the national chapter so that Gene Grisby, a black student, would be able to pledge. Now that she knew his name, she smiled throughout the rest of her shift like she was in some sort of dream. She couldn’t stop thinking about him after work either.
Prentiss continued his morning visits to the cafeteria every day. He just wanted to know more about the pretty canteen girl who he couldn’t get off of his mind. Now that they had introduced themselves, they began talking a little and getting to know each other. They didn’t have long conversations, but Janice told Prentiss that she was a sophomore.
He later recalled, “I actually didn’t think I had a chance with her. She was a year ahead of me and just so beautiful.” But that didn’t stop him from stopping by the cafeteria to see her every morning: “Every morning at 6:00 a.m., because I just wanted to see her and have our little morning exchange.” How cute is that? Boys acted like real gentlemen back in the ‘60s. Well, at least Prentiss did.
However, one morning, Prentiss didn’t show up to the cafeteria. It was right before Thanksgiving vacation, and most of the students would be leaving campus shortly to visit their loved ones, but Prentiss wasn’t around. The school had a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at the cafeteria. Although it wasn’t their usual morning meeting time, Janice still expected to see Prentiss there.
They began speaking a little more, but they really hadn’t spent much time together outside the school’s cafeteria. She was really hoping they would get a chance to chat and hang out while she wasn’t working. But when Prentiss never showed up to the pre-Thanksgiving dinner, her heart sank. Janice was so disappointed.
Janice felt frustrated and let down when she didn’t get a chance to see Prentiss that evening. Like any strong independent woman, Janice didn’t want to sit around waiting for a boy. Instead, she asked around about him. After speaking to some of her classmates, Janice gathered enough information about her crush.
She found out that Prentiss went to his parent’s house early. That’s why he didn’t show up to the dinner. One of his fraternity brothers generously gave her his address. She headed towards her car on that Los Angeles fall day. Her nerves nearly got the best of her, but she worked up the courage to follow through and show up at his house.
Janice made the trip from Los Angeles to Santa Maria. The road was long, unfamiliar, and stretched for about 150 miles north of LA. She was driving by herself and turned on the radio to distract herself and calm her nerves. I mean, she was literally on her way to his parent’s home and didn’t even call first.
Something just came over her and compelled her to go over there. After a three-hour drive and with a crumpled map next to her, Janice finally arrived at Prentiss’s parent’s ranch and knocked on the door. Again, he had no idea she was coming… like, at all. Why would his breakfast waitress at school randomly show up to his family’s Thanksgiving meal?
Prentis was enjoying the warm feeling of being back at home; he was curled up on the couch reading a book. He got back from school the night before, and he was so excited for a comforting home-cooked meal. He did, however, regret not seeing Janice that day. He looked forward to their morning encounters, and he had missed one.
He couldn’t stop thinking about Janice and that missed interaction. As he was daydreaming about Janice, there was suddenly a knock on the door. It startled him out of his fantasy world, and he rushed to answer the door. You can imagine the shock that came over him when he saw Janice at the door. He certainly wasn’t expecting her.
Janice was standing at his doorstep and immediately regretted having the audacity to show up at his house. She heard footsteps coming to the door, and, of course, Prentiss opened it. He was in complete shock. Prentiss said, “Hi,” and he couldn’t believe the girl of his dreams was standing there because she missed him. Especially since she had no idea that she was all he could think about.
Janice apologized for coming over without calling first, but Prentiss couldn’t be happier with this unexpected visitor and led her inside. He introduced Janice to his parents, and they got along great, especially Janice and his mother. They connected “just like I [did],” Prentiss recalled.
Prentiss and his family invited Janice to stay for Thanksgiving dinner. After a three-hour drive, it would be disappointing if she didn’t get an invite. She joined them for the holiday meal before heading back to school for the rest of the weekend. From that point on, the two were inseparable.
As soon as Prentiss was back at school, the pair were always together and walked around campus holding hands. It was clear to everyone around that Prentiss and Janice were meant to be together. They were just on the same wavelength. Whenever they looked at each other, they couldn’t help but smile; it was like they were the only two people in the world.
They had a whirlwind romance. They were so happy and so in love that in early December, Prentiss decided to pop the question. That’s right; after just a few weeks of dating, Prentiss asked Janice to marry him. You know what they say, ‘when you know, you know,’ and Prentiss knew since the first moment he saw her that “we were meant to be.”
At this point, they had only been going steady for a couple of weeks, but it didn’t matter. He couldn’t imagine his life without Janice in it. His fraternity brothers helped Prentiss plan a romantic evening for the couple that would end with his marriage proposal. But would she say yes? After all, it had barely been a month since they got together.
Despite the fact that they had been dating for a very short time, Janice immediately said yes. She didn’t even need to think twice about it. She knew they had a connection and that she was in love with him from the moment she saw him. How could she say no to the man of her dreams? It really wasn’t a question for her.
He got on one knee and slid the beautiful diamond ring onto her finger. She was overjoyed and had never felt that happy before in her life. Unfortunately, the excitement soon turned into heartache. Instead of looking at dresses and planning their wedding, the couple needed to fight for their love.
After calling their respective families, Prentiss and Janice wanted to announce their engagement through the local paper (which was customary at the time). Prentiss’s fraternity brothers were so excited for him, and Janice was celebrating with her sorority sisters. There was so much love in the air, and it seemed like everything was perfect.
The girls screeched with excitement when she showed off her ring, and they all looked at the newspaper announcement and admired it together. However, there was something strange at the end of the announcement; there was a telling line that read, “No date has been set for the wedding.” I’m no expert, but that doesn’t seem like a good sign.
Almost everyone was happy about the engagement news, but there was one person who didn’t approve — Janice’s father. He was a blue-collar businessman and didn’t connect with Prentiss’s intellectual parents. After all, his father was a doctor, and Janice’s dad was more of the street smarts type.
But it got really bad. It wasn’t that he didn’t like their relationship; he completely disapproved of the pairing. He even threatened to stop paying for his daughter’s college tuition if she didn’t break up with the love of her life. Janice was so distraught and called her mom again. The mother and daughter tried to figure out a way to work around it.
In an attempt to help Janice, her mother applied for a second mortgage on their house. She hoped a little extra money would help the family enough so that Janice could continue going to school without her dad’s money. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The money wasn’t enough, and Janice’s father wouldn’t budge.
Janice was excelling in school, and she was so worried that if she dropped out and married him, Prentiss would lose respect for her. She knew he came from an intellectual home, and she feared he wanted a smart girl. Janice was clearly intelligent, but she thought he would ultimately leave her for someone who was more educated.
Prentiss continuously reassured Janice that her fears were unfounded; she had nothing to worry about. He didn’t care if she had a degree or not; he would love her just the same either way. Prentiss’s family loved Janice, and his mom even suggested the couple elope. But Janice was in a difficult situation.
Between the pressure from her father, and the anxiety she felt about disobeying him, Janice had no clue what to do. Now, Janice was struggling to stay afloat, and she knew Prentiss couldn’t fully understand that. She had a huge decision to make by January. Either leave college and marry the man of her dreams or break up with him altogether.
Prentiss later recalled, “We tried to figure things out, but I guess we weren’t smart enough. We had to. We didn’t want to, but we had to”. Janice was completely heartbroken and gave Prentiss back the ring with tears in her eyes. Prentiss was also devastated and felt like his heart has been shattered; he was worried that it would be impossible to put it back together.
The breakup was tough on both of them. It was like their future was ripped out from under them, and they didn’t have much of a choice on the matter. They lovers broke up and went their separate ways. Janice graduated and went on to become a biologist, and was in charge of her family’s diving board business in Reno, Nevada.
Despite the pain and heartbreak he felt, Prentiss somehow managed to pick himself up and eventually moved on. After graduating from Occidental College, he attended Harvard Law School. Coming from the background that he did, it made sense that he went to Harvard. He studied hard and graduated from the prestigious school.
Prentiss started working as soon as he got out of university. He was a determined man and worked his way up the ladder. Eventually, he became one of the best tax attorneys in the San Francisco Bay area; now, that’s impressive. He was never able to erase Janice from his memory, but he ended up marrying someone else.
Just like Prentiss, Janice was also successful in her field. In fact, she was inducted to the United States of America Diving Association Hall of Fame as an honorary member, thanks to her contributions to the industry. She also ended up marrying someone else, but she never forgot Prentiss — her ex-fiancé, and the love of her life.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that both Janice and Prentiss’s marriages didn’t last. The two had already met their soul mates, and they wanted the true love they had for each other. It only made sense that their future relationships would be haunted by the memory of their true love. Nothing could even compare.
In a strange twist of fate, Janice and Prentiss both ended up in identical situations. Sadly, both of their mothers tragically passed away within months of each other. It had been almost five decades since the couple saw each other, but once again, destiny pushed them together. I guess you can’t escape fate.
It was a difficult time. After the tragic deaths, each of them had to plan a funeral and then go through their mother’s belongings. That’s when they came across a striking coincidence. It was such a big shock that it managed to push the pair back in touch, almost half a century after their break up. What could it possibly be?
As devastated Prentiss was looking through his late mother’s things, he was full of grief. Suddenly, he came across a crumpled piece of newspaper. To his surprise, it was the clipping of his engagement announcement to Janice from decades before. His mom held on to it for all those years.
When Janice was going through her mom’s stuff, she found the same thing. The clipping was in her mom’s wallet, and she realized her mother carried the clipping around with her this whole time — a memory of her daughter’s soul mate. You know what they say, ‘a mother knows best.’ Prentiss immediately felt like he should reach out to Janice. But would she feel the same way? After all these years?
On June 10, 2010, the two reconnected at the classic San Francisco, Cliff House, over brunch. As soon as they saw each other, it was like time stood still once again. Feelings immediately came back, and it was as if Prentiss and Janice were back in college. They connected right away as if they hadn’t been apart for the last 50 years.
As they caught up on the last five decades of their lives, neither of them could stop smiling. They just looked at each other like two kids in love. Prentiss said: “The mother’s got it. The mothers simply knew, and I think we [he and Janice] also knew.” Six months after reuniting, they were engaged again.
On August 19th, 2012, Prentiss Willson and Janice Rude went back to the place where it all began and finally walked down the aisle. Thanks to their late mothers’ amazing intuition, they used the original engagement newspaper announcement on their wedding invitations. But this time, a date was officially set.
Some of their classmates from Occidental showed up at the wedding, and, finally, the couple had the wedding they had always dreamed of. They said their vows and promised to love each other for eternity. It’s so beautiful to see couples reconnect after all this time. With the increased popularity of social media, it’s become more and more common for soulmates to find each other. Stories like this really make me believe in true love.