This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on August 18, 2013.
Aboard a boat on the Seine River in Paris, Joni Keim said “I do” to her high school sweetheart, Mark Treadwell, on May Day – 48 years after their first date. After more than three decades without contact, the couple’s romantic reunion took place because Keim had a dream.
The pair first met at a Piedmont Christmas party in 1965. Keim, then 15, was a guest, and Treadwell, 17, was the lead singer and guitar player in the band.
“The first thing I saw when I walked in was Joni,” Treadwell remembers. “I was just smitten. What an adorable girl.”
Keim told her friend she thought the lead singer was “cool.”
“Can you play ‘Do You Love Me’ by the Contours?” he asked.
“Of course he can!” a bandmate answered. “I was infatuated,” Treadwell recalled. “I couldn’t even answer her request.”
Within a few days, Treadwell had tracked down Keim’s phone number and called her for a date. Keim said she could hardly contain her excitement, but first she had to persuade her parents to let her go out with an older guy. One who could drive.
“I pleaded with my mother and assured her he was from a good home and that he was a gentleman,” she said. “I didn’t really know that, but through a stroke of good luck, my mom gave me permission to go.”
Treadwell took Keim to dinner in San Francisco with another teenage couple. “I figured a double date would be more comfortable for her and for me,” he said. He drove her home before curfew, asked her out again, and shook her hand on the front porch.
“The first date was magical,” Keim said.
For nine months, they dated, talked “endlessly” on the phone, and even went on a family vacation together at Twain Harte Lake in Tuolumne County. Then they broke up. Neither exactly remembers why. Keim cites their “immaturity” at the time. Treadwell remembers only that he “was heartbroken.”
Still, they remained friends and kept in touch until Keim got married in 1973.
“For me, that was hands off,” Treadwell said. “She’s a married lady now.”
Even after they lost contact, each kept mementos of that first love. Keim saved every picture of Treadwell. Treadwell kept empty bottles of Keim’s White Shoulders perfume – her signature scent as a teenager.
The years passed. Keim had two kids and became a health and wellness expert, authoring six books. She divorced in 1998. Treadwell was a contractor building custom homes in the Bay Area. He married in 1991 but lost his wife to cancer in 2007.
In early 2010, Keim had what she calls “an incredibly vivid dream.” In it, Treadwell walked into a room, looked around and then walked out. He didn’t see Keim, and as he left, she said to herself, “He was always the one.”
She awoke and resolved to find Treadwell. His Facebook profile revealed that he still lived in the Bay Area. After a few notes, they agreed to meet for lunch.
Treadwell was grieving his wife and not looking for a relationship, but he did want to see Keim again. “We just had so much history to share,” he said. At lunch, he remembers she looked “amazing. She hadn’t aged at all.”
Over the next two years, they rekindled their friendship. Then, in January 2012, Keim left to spend two months with her 92-year-old father in San Clemente (Orange County). On Valentine’s Day, her father’s doorbell rang. It was a delivery of two dozen long-stemmed red roses.
“Look, Hon,” Keim’s father said, “I don’t know if you know this, but two dozen long-stemmed roses from a man means something.”
He was right. “It was a bit of a secret that we had reconnected,” Treadwell said, “I didn’t want to keep the secret anymore.”
At her father’s urging, Keim invited Treadwell to come to San Clemente the following weekend. When her dad saw Treadwell for the first time in 40 years, Keim saw his eyes well up. “You’re better-looking than I remember,” he said.
Shortly after the visit, Keim moved into Treadwell’s Lafayette home. And at dinner with friends in January 2013, Treadwell reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box.
“I immediately got it when I saw him reach into his pocket,” Keim said. “I burst into tears.”
A jeweler friend of Treadwell’s had made the ring out of the diamond he gave his first wife and diamonds and rubies from one of Keim’s mother’s rings. The gold from both rings was melded into their wedding bands.
They agreed to marry on Treadwell’s 65th birthday in Paris, his “favorite city” and a place Keim, 63, had never been. To go, she had to apply for her first passport.
Eight guests attended their ceremony on a boat one of Treadwell’s friends owned. Keim wore White Shoulders perfume. The bride and groom each wrote their own accounts of their love story, hers sentimental and his humorous. Treadwell read his aloud at the wedding, and Keim had a friend read hers because she was too emotional to get through it.
Rain – which is considered lucky in French wedding lore – moved the festivities inside, but it didn’t stop the couple from having their wedding dinner at Le Jules Verne restaurant atop the Eiffel Tower.
“I know Mark is 65, but when I look at him, I still see a 17-year-old,” Keim says. “There are moments for me when I feel like there was never anything else.”