A man and woman who dated more than 70 years ago were reunited Thursday afternoon at a Waco Luby’s Cafeteria after Jeanette Gooch Green, 90, found a U.S. Navy ring he gave to her while on leave during World War II.
Robert Storey Jr., 95, met Green in Waco on a blind date in 1944, and, after the two drifted apart for the better part of seven decades, it took a jewelry box, an old photo of Storey in uniform in Cameron Park and a little investigating to bring them back together.
Both went on to marry other people and raise families. Green is now a widow and Storey a widower.
The two were all smiles Thursday as they sat among each other’s children and grandchildren at the restaurant on Green’s 90th birthday.
Never miss a local story.
“Well, I’m glad you kept it all this time,” Storey said, looking at the ring while Green placed it on his finger. “It’s been a long time.”
Green read a story in 2014 about her former flame in the Tribune-Herald, and her two daughters found Storey, who lives in Mart, on Google and contacted him so that the two could reconnect.
The two first met on a blind date with friends, and they went to a nightclub called Casa Blanca near Lake Waco, Green said.
“It was a place you could go dance and drink and have a good time,” she said.
On Thursday, over iced tea, fried okra, liver and onions, the two sat side by side for more than two hours reminiscing about the times they shared and catching up on seven decades spent apart.
Storey returned overseas not long after his first date with Green, but the two say they never forgot each other. In the meantime, Green dated other military men.
“She would go dancing at the bases on Saturday night,” Green’s daughter Diane Birdwell, 54, said.
Green said some of the men she dated took her to play miniature golf, see a movie or stroll down Austin Avenue.
“She’s 90 on the outside, but she’s still about 16 on the inside,” said her daughter Janet Rizovi, 59.
“You’re still young compared to me,” Storey said of Green.
“She was a good-looking girl,” he added, looking at a photo of Green when she was a teen. “That’s a pretty girl right there.”
By the time Storey returned to the Waco area after his wartime service, Green had moved.
“I was living in Dallas and he was living in Waco, and never the twain shall meet,” she said.
Storey did visit Green once after the war, they said, but they never started dating again.
In the six years he served in the Navy, Storey spent most of it on the USS Salt Lake City, known as the “One-Ship Fleet” and “The Swayback Maru,” the Tribune-Herald reported in 2014.
His ship took part in the Doolittle Raid and the Battle of the Komandorski Islands, which took place off the eastern coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
Storey’s first encounter with enemy forces occurred the day after the infamous Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Storey and his shipmates were approximately 200 miles out from the harbor.
“It was a sick sight, I'll tell you,” he said in 2014. “Everything we had was gone ... guys floating in the water, dead.”
Green said she was very glad she was able to return Storey’s ring after all this time.
“I, of course, gave it to her to keep,” Storey said, but Green insisted he be able to pass the heirloom on to his grandchildren.
Both sat Thursday looking at an old photo of Storey and chatting, while Luby’s employees took their picture and other patrons came over to thank him for his service.
“You don’t ever get to see people like that after 70 years,” said Storey, who presented Green with a birthday card that sang, “Thank you for being a friend.”
“We’re good friends,” Green said, smiling.