47 years later, Middletown high school sweethearts marry

Forty-seven years after first dating in high school, Larry Blanton and Kathy Koehler were married in the same auditorium where they met while students in Middletown. RICK McCRABB/STAFF
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Forty-seven years after first dating in high school, Larry Blanton and Kathy Koehler were married in the same auditorium where they met while students in Middletown. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

It was 1969 and Richard M. Nixon became the 37th president of the United States, “The Brady Bunch” premiered on ABC, the New York Jets of the American Football League beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the Woodstock Festival was held for four days in upstate New York.

And Larry Blanton and Kathy Koehler were high school sweethearts, but like many teenage love stories, this one took twists and turns until the final chapter could be written.

The two met during study hall in the Middletown High School auditorium while Koehler was sitting two rows in front of him. Her high school nickname was “Snake” because of her piercing green eyes. He was intrigued by this pretty girl with the odd nickname so he passed her a note and asked if she wanted a ride home after school.

What sophomore could refuse such an offer from a junior?

He eventually gave her his high school class ring, but a couple of months later, asked for it back.

“I was crushed,” she said. “Just heart-broken. He was the guy. He was my first love.”

Forty-seven years later, he made her another offer she couldn’t refuse. She became Mrs. Blanton.

They were married recently in the auditorium of Middletown Middle School, the former high school on Girard Avenue. After the wedding, they even sat in the same seats, right where they met in high school.

“It was fate that we got back together,” said Blanton, 65, a 1970 MHS graduate.

“It’s hard to explain,” said Koehler, 63, a 1971 MHS graduate.

After graduating, they both got married, raised their families, but never stopped thinking about each other.

“I wondered if he was happy, made a name for himself,” said Koehler, who moved to Fairfield and lost contact with Blanton. “He was always in my heart.”

He said: “I kept her in my mind.”

In 1975, there was a chance meeting at Smith Park when Koehler was there to watch a baseball game. Blanton was riding a motorcycle and Koehler gave him a Saint Christopher medal to wear as protection. That was the last time they saw each other until an odd request from her father led them together again.

He sent Koehler, his oldest of five daughters, to the store to buy his favorite brand of cracker in 2009. She told him she would buy the crackers at Kroger because she had to get other groceries, but he insisted on crackers bought from Save-A-Lot. After walking into the store, for some reason, Koehler blurted out: “Larry Blanton,” though he was no where in sight.

“I smelled him before I saw him,” she said with a laugh. “When I saw him, I kept walking.”

Finally, they met in an aisle and the conversation went something like this:

“I know you.”

“I know you, too.”

“Are you Larry?”

“Are you Kathy?”

He was with his girlfriend, so Koehler left the store.

Then in 2010, after her father died, Koehler needed to find a notary to sign papers so she could sell some of her dad’s cars. She was driving to Trenton one day, and saw a notary sign in a front yard, so she stopped. After checking on the cost of getting the papers notarized, Koehler got in her car and looked up and there stood Blanton.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I live here,” he said.

Blanton broke up with that woman and started dating Koehler. They got engaged three years later.

They both wonder how their lives would have been different had they not stopped dating in high school. She was married for 24 years and has three sons. He was divorced twice, and has five daughters.

Now they’ve back together, finally Mr. and Mrs. Blanton.

Their wedding song, fittingly, was “The Broken Road,” by Rascal Flatts.

“I never thought it would take this long,” she said. “God has brought us back to a place where we can be together. There are times when I wonder if I’m dreaming all of this and did this really come true.”

She paused, then added: “This is our time to be together and live out life together.”