High school sweethearts reunite after 42 years

A lost love, found

Dave Raynor and Patti Jeannotte are getting a second chance at love after decades away from each other. Here, they pose at the Liberty Theatre, where they often went on dates in high school.

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Dave Raynor smiles for his Camas High School senior photo.

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Patti (Hancock) Jeannotte in her Washougal High School senior photo.

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Photo courtesy of Dave Raynor Raynor’s high school band, Braniff, often played at local functions, which is how he met his high school sweetheart Patti (Hancock) Jeannotte. From left, Raynor, Mike Sellner and Dale Trullinger perform.

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Photo courtesy of Dave Raynor Patti (Hancock) Jeannotte and Dave Raynor pose for her Washougal High School prom photo.

Well I came home, like a stone

And I fell heavy into your arms.

These days of dust, which we have known,

will blow away with this new sun.

But I’ll kneel down, wait for now

And I’ll kneel down, know my ground,

And I will wait, I will wait for you.”

These lyrics to a popular Mumford & Sons song could easily describe the romance between two former high school sweethearts, Patti Jeannotte and Dave Raynor.

The two reunited last winter after more than 40 years apart, picking up where they left off. It was almost as if the decades away from each other had never happened. Once again they are like teenagers in love, but with a mature appreciation only life experience can bring.

High school romance

Jeannotte and Raynor, now 61 and 60, respectively, met in 1968 at a party in Camas where Dave’s band, Braniff, was playing.

“I fell head-over-heels right away,” Jeannotte, who was then Patti Hancock, said.

Raynor felt the same.

“It’s like I was hit by a Mack truck,” he said.

“I was very comfortable with him right away,” Jeannotte said. “I still am. That hasn’t changed at all. We still laugh at the same things. We’re just a good fit.”

Raynor agrees.

“She was made for me,” he said.

The two were inseparable. In 1970, Jeannotte graduated from Washougal High School. Raynor, a year younger, was still attending Camas High.

Like many teen romances, it ended when the two decided to go in different directions.

Raynor, a guitar player and singer, moved to Seattle to pursue his career. Patti attended college, worked at Crown-Zellerbach in Camas and began dating another man.

“I gave you away because I wanted to do my own thing,” Raynor said, looking intently at Jeannotte. “It was my fault.”

Five years later, he called and asked her to drinks and dinner, but she was in a relationship and declined the offer.

Many years apart

Raynor made a career for himself as a recording engineer in Seattle and then Los Angeles. In addition, he was on the road playing music with stars such as Chuck Berry and Deniece Williams. Raynor helped Williams write a Grammy award winning song, “I Believe in You.”

Meanwhile, Jeannotte stayed closer to home. She lived in Vancouver and began working at Albertson’s, where she is still employed today.

Both married other people and raised children. Raynor’s marriage ended in 1996, and Jeannotte’s in 2000.

The two continued living separate lives. When asked if they ever thought of each other, the response was “yes.”

But it was all a matter of timing. People get busy, years pass, and while one might reflect fondly on a lost love with a bit of a smile and a memory, little else happens.

And it may have stayed that way if it weren’t for a chance phone call last winter.

Raynor was home in Camas, visiting from Branson, Mo., where he was playing at the Andy Williams Moon River Theater. While chatting with a best friend from CHS, Jim “Merk” Morris, they started reminiscing about high school.

“I said to him, ‘I wonder what Patti’s doing now?’ and he replied, ‘She lives right down the street with her mom. You should call her and see how she is,’” Raynor recalled.

So, he picked up the phone and called Jeannotte. The two agreed to meet at Morris’s house with him and his wife, Lindsey.

“We did a lot of double dating in high school before they were married,” Raynor said.

Jeannotte said she was a little nervous seeing Raynor after so long.

His reaction was a bit more pronounced.

“I just about fell out of my chair,” he said. “After 42 years, nothing about her had changed.”

The two went to Hearth in Washougal for dinner that night, and spent the next two weeks getting reacquainted before Raynor went back to Branson.

After his mother passed away in March, he came back home.

“He told me that there was no way he could live in Branson without me,” Jeannotte said. “I really missed him a lot while he was gone. It was strange to feel that way after not seeing him for so long.”

Raynor said there were times when he couldn’t believe what had happened.

“I’d be driving home from work and get a text from Patti, and I would get so overwhelmed I’d have to pull over and respond to it. It was surreal, but great. My first reason for coming home was to help my dad, but Patti was a big part of it, too.”

Both were thrilled but scared of their newfound love.

“I was really comfortable with him but said we needed to cool it a bit,” she said. “He really wanted to jump in there but I was hesitant because I’ve been burned before.”

“I was scared to death,” Raynor said. “She just does that do me. Rejection is one of life’s greatest fears, you know.”

He paused, and gazed into Jeannotte’s eyes for a moment.

“You scare me. But I’m not losing you again.”

So, what do you think?

In January, Raynor did what he could never have imagined a little more than a year ago.

He asked his high school sweetheart to marry him.

The two were at McGrath’s Fish House in Vancouver for an early dinner before seeing a movie at Cinetopia.

“I opened the box, put it on her finger and asked, ‘So, what do you think?’ I was thinking about getting down on one knee and doing all that, then I decided to just come out with it,” he said.

Patti said yes.

“The ring was a little big but I kept it on,” she joked.

The couple said the differences between this romance and their first marriages are like night and day.

“We communicate really well for one thing,” Jeannotte said. “We talk about everything and don’t hold back.”

“I love to be around her,” Raynor said. “I feel better. We still hold each other while we watch T.V. and movies, just like we used to.”

The two have not set a wedding date. For now, they are just enjoying the journey.

“We could be washing dishes together, and it would still be fun,” he said. “I don’t care what we do, as long as we are together. The first time I got married, it was for the wrong reasons. This time, it will be because I love her, which should be the only reason.”