Baumgartner Vaughan: Childhood friends reunite on Facebook, fall in love

May. 17, 2014 @ 04:39 PM

Do you remember that boy or girl you playfully kicked under your desks in third grade? Dawn Grasty and Randy Weisbaum do. Picture it: Simi Valley, California, 1969 to 1971. Grasty and Weisbaum were best friends in third and fourth grades. They played together with other friends at recess – kickball, handball, swinging on the monkey bars. Weisbaum would chase Grasty and jokingly pull her hair the way kids do before they’re old enough to flirt. Their desks faced each other in class, hence the kicking of each other’s feet. But then before fifth grade, Weisbaum moved across town. It might as well have been across the country for kids, which is what Grasty’s family did the year after that – coming home to the mountains of North Carolina.

Fast forward more than 40 years. They’re now both 52 years old, and thanks to Facebook and that childhood friendship, Grasty and Weisbaum have renewed their relationship, this time a romantic one.

I received a call from Weisbaum this spring, telling me about his old friend and plans to come visit her in Durham, where she lives now. He just wanted to share his happy news. During Thursday afternoon’s downpour, I met the new couple at Starbucks on N.C. 55. He had only been in North Carolina a day, having flown into Charlotte from his home in Las Vegas, and in Durham just a few hours. Their chemistry was immediately evident. Grasty’s eyes sparkled as she looked at Weisbaum. They held hands.

Back in 1971, the friends parted ways without even saying goodbye. They had a mutual friend, though, named Patty, who Weisbaum kept up with for about 20 years. She’d tell him how his old friend was doing. He married and divorced; Grasty never married. Eventually Weisbaum lost touch with Patty, too, until he found her on Facebook earlier this year. Looking through her mutual friends list, there was the red-haired girl from fourth grade.

It was Super Bowl Sunday, and Weisbaum sent Grasty a message. She responded quickly, and they caught up virtually, then more frequently over the coming weeks and months by phone and video chat. Their friend Patty has also reconnected with an old classmate named Richard, and moved to Illinois to be with him. That sounded like a good idea to Weisbaum, too. After he flies back to Las Vegas in a few days, he’ll start packing up and move here by July. A career delivery driver, he’s already checking out jobs in Durham. This weekend Patty and Richard planned to fly down and the four old friends would reunite as two new couples – and still old friends, too.

“Life had led us in different directions, and we’ve had hard knocks,” Weisbaum said. “But we’re the same person we were then. The moral of the story is you can reconnect. Don’t give up.”

He was so excited to see Grasty again that on his flight to Charlotte, he told the flight attendant, who announced it. Passengers watched and cheered when Weisbaum and Grasty reunited at baggage claim. They went out to dinner at Chili’s.

“It took us 43 years and 2,300 miles to have our first date,” he said.

Their hearts still knew each other from way back when, Grasty said.

After talking with me at Starbucks, they were headed to do something longtime couples do – go grocery shopping together.

“We are 100 percent totally committed to this whole thing,” Weisbaum said.

“This is it,” Grasty said.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563. Follow on Twitter: @dawnbvaughan.