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December 3rd, 2003 Kim Colton | Hitched
 

Bill and Karen Grimaud

OCTOBER 4, 2003

     
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In 1963, John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas. It was also the year Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C.

For Bill and Karen Grimaud, the year stands out because that's when they fell madly in love--the first time.

They met on a blind date in June. Bill was18 then, Karen was 17, and they lived in the same Southern California neighborhood. They played pool in Bill's basement while the couple who introduced them made out in another room.

Karen remembers being uninterested in Bill that first night; his dark-brown moustache and beard were a turn-off, she says. Still, she obliged Bill's request for a kiss and was pleasantly surprised when he arrived clean-shaven for their next date.

Bill and Karen both say they were one another's first love. Karen says she was convinced that the two would marry, and so was shocked when he broke things off three years later.

Years later, Bill would offer the excuse that he might have been bluffing. He says things had changed between them when he suggested they see other people, but he never thought she'd take the bait. When Karen took him up on the suggestion, Bill moved on with his life.

In reality, Karen was heartbroken. "I thought we were going to be married," she says. Though she was married briefly in 1968, she remained convinced that someday she would end up with Bill, despite knowing he had married someone else and started a family.

They exchanged letters in the '80s, but then lost contact for a time. In 1999, Karen had a dream in which she thought Bill needed her, and for the next two years, she searched for him.

First she checked the Internet, and with information she found on a genealogy site, she learned Bill's wife had died of cancer in 1995. Next, she checked Department of Motor Vehicles records in California and Washington with no luck. When she checked the records in Oregon, however, she hit the jackpot. That's when she learned that Bill Grimaud was living in Portland--less than five miles from her house.

Then Karen got a little cautious. Rather than just march up and knock on his door, she first drove by and checked the name on his mailbox to see if he was living with anyone. He wasn't.

Turns out, Bill had been looking for Karen, too. In 1999, he moved to Portland to find her, though he wasn't as savvy as Karen in his search--he'd only checked phone books.

Needless to say, in November 2001, when Bill received a letter from Karen, he called her right away.

"He sounded exactly the same," Karen says. "It took my breath away."

While both were happy that they'd found each other again, they admit their first days were rocky. Karen still harbored ill feelings about the breakup all those years ago. Bill was still grieving the loss of his wife. They spent nearly a month not talking to each other. When they reunited in December, Bill immediately asked Karen to marry him.

They celebrated with a mock ceremony that month, toasting their relationship with champagne and roses, and exchanging vows in secret. They've considered themselves married ever since.

In October they had a legal wedding--in front of hundreds of strangers and 30 of their own invited guests--at the enviro-group EcoTrust's Salmon Nation Block Party in the Pearl District.

Karen says, "I wanted a ceremony." Forty years after the couple first fell in love, Bill and Karen finally got one.

 
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