When Ann Elizabeth Greenawalt and Eric "Rick" Michael Dohl were set up by their fathers on New Year's Eve in 1980, they never imagined where the relationship would take them.
Ann was 17 and a junior at Williamsport Area High School when she was introduced to Rick, a 20-year-old Marine and 1980 graduate of Muncy High School who had just finished boot camp.
Ann said the couple dated for two years while Rick was stationed in South Carolina. After she put him on a plane for Okinawa, Japan, in 1982, they tried to make the long-distance relationship work. But the miles apart were too much, and the couple soon went their separate ways.
Years later, Ann needed a fresh start.
To escape a difficult situation, she packed up her two daughters and the family dog and relocated to California, where her brother, Glenn, lived at the time. There, she used the Internet to find Rick's sister-in-law, Sue Dohl. Sue grew up in Turbotville and became one of Ann's close friends while Rick was stationed in Japan.
"I often thought of his sister-in-law and his mother over the years, but I couldn't socialize with them knowing it would make a difficult situation worse," she said. "When I moved, I did a Google search for Sue and found a number for her in Ohio. Taking a chance, I called, and it was the correct number."
When she called Sue and they started to catch up about the years lost and her relocation to California, she discovered that Rick also lived in California and was going through a difficult divorce.
While Ann was talking with Sue, her husband, Kris, called Rick to tell him that Sue was on the phone with Ann. Sue told Ann that Rick was expecting her call.
At the time, Ann had no idea if they were even living near each other; after all, California's a big state.
She called Rick, left a voice message that said, "Hi, Rick. This is Annie Greenawalt just thought I would give you a call to say 'hi.' Call back if you like."
Two minutes later, Rick returned her call and they talked for hours.
"We found out we lived only half an hour apart," Ann said. "On Sept. 11, 2007, he came to see me and we've been together ever since."
Ann said she was very nervous about meeting Rick that first time. She looked different from high school and it had been 27 years since they had last seen each other.
"The last time Rick saw me, I had jet-black, wavy hair," Ann said.
When Ann saw him for the first time after more than two decades, she couldn't believe how handsome he still was. She was afraid he wouldn't recognize her, but he did.
"I knew that you were my Annie because of those eyes and smile," Rick said.
When they reconnected, Ann said, "It was like we picked up right where we left off."
Ann said the two cannot believe they are back together after all these years.
"We look at each other and are amazed, me saying 'Rick Dohl' and him saying 'Annie Greenawalt' and then we laugh," Ann said.
Now, the couple is planning an Aug. 3 wedding at First Warrior Run Church, Watsontown.
They both reside in San Diego, Calif., but their families are here. Ann's mother, Shirley Greenawalt, lives in Northumberland; and her father and stepmother, Claire and Charles Greenawalt, live in Williamsport. Rick's father, Leonard Hoke Dohl has since passed, but his mother, Charlotte S. Dohl, resides in Turbotville.
Rick and Ann were back home in December, along with her oldest daughter, to see her youngest daughter graduate from Lock Haven University and said it was great to reminisce and have the families together again.
As Ann discussed the relationship she and Rick had when they were younger, she recalled their dates.
"When Rick came home on leave for the weekend, our dates consisted of going on hikes at the Montour Preserve, or looking at the lights from his parents' living room window, seeing the Preserve, known as 'the show boat,' and going to the movies, 'Buck Night' at the Ritz in Muncy," Ann said.
They also communicated through letter writing and long-distance phone calls, taking turns calling each other so that no one was strapped with the long-distance phone bills.
Also during their early courtship, Rick would call Ann while he was standing 24-hour watch duty at Camp Lejeune and would ask her if she was having hot chocolate and popcorn, a comfort snack they shared long distance.
"We still enjoy this snack, only now we are together again to share it," Ann said.
Ann said her faith has been a big factor in their relationship together.
"The Lord has a plan for each of us, but we just don't know what it is. We don't have control of our lives in that the Lord had His plan for us," she said. "Maybe we were meant to go through all we did in preparation for this day, when God brought us back together again."
Ann and Rick both say they are so excited they found each other again and rekindling the love they shared many years ago. The couple is looking forward to their future and what God has in store for them, from having a blended family to building their home.
"Life really does come full circle and it is apparent that everything in life happens for a reason," Ann said. "Thus far, it has been an adventure we never expected and we would not trade it for the world."