Mike Cravens, his mother and sister moved to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the summer of 1965 while Mike’s father was overseas in the military. Linda Decker was the girl next door. “She showed up on my doorstep with one of her girlfriends that summer and welcomed me to Cape Girardeau,” Mike said.
They attended Central High School and by their junior year, started dating and became serious. When they graduated in 1967, both attended Southeast Missouri State University but found dating too hard in college. They ended their relationship during their freshman year and didn’t see or speak to one another for 36 years.
Linda completed college, married, had three children and after 30 years of marriage and a wonderful life was widowed.
Mike was drafted, spent two years overseas, after college, married and became an Air Force pilot, lived all over the world before settling in Alaska and working as a pilot for the Alaska State Troopers. Mike always thought about Linda.
In September 2003, Mike returned to Cape Girardeau to visit his mother, who was ill. He visited Linda’s mother a retirement community and gave her a letter to pass on to Linda.
Linda had been widowed for five years and was lonesome. They emailed for four months, spoke on the phone, exchanged pictures and finally met in St. Louis.
On the plane, Linda told perfect strangers what she was doing and asked if she should really be doing this. “I hadn’t seen this man in 36 years — it was crazy,” Linda said.
The people she shared her story with encouraged her and even offered phone numbers so she could update them after the reunion.
Mike was waiting with a handmade sign that read “Mike looking for Linda.” Once he saw her he pulled out another sign that read “Found her — again.”
They continued to visit but at each visit they found saying goodbye more difficult. Mike lived in Alaska, Linda in Florida.
Mike made the 7,000-mile move to Orlando and they married on the same date Mike had asked Linda to go steady 40 years earlier.
From a story by Jennifer Freeze in the Southeast Missourian, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.