After finding the woman he had never forgotten on Classmates.com, Larry Bradley agonized for days over what message to send her. He wrote paragraphs and rewrote them before settling on a more casual opening line:
“What have you been doing for the last 40 years?”
Five years later, sitting next to him on a couch in their living room, Charlotte Bradley remembered the first response that went through her mind.
“‘Waiting to hear from you,’” she said. “I really wanted to say that … but I didn’t.”
Charlotte, who had recently divorced, was living in Centerville and taking care of her father, Leon Vandike. Larry, who had also recently divorced, was working at a juvenile home in Toledo, Iowa, after having retired from a career as a special education teacher in Tama. They emailed back and forth for a while and then, on Jan. 1, 2007, they decided to meet up in Oskaloosa. This time, they didn’t let each other go.
“We haven’t even had our first argument,” Larry said. “In high school we’d probably have already broken up 10 times by now.”
Larry and Charlotte dated for four years back in the 1960s — though, as Larry noted, they had a habit of breaking up every so often. For Charlotte, who graduated from Centerville High School in 1967, it was nearly her entire high school experience starting in the spring of her freshman year. For Larry, who graduated in 1965, it was his last two years of high school and his two years of junior college in Centerville.
When she graduated from high school, Charlotte was ready to get out and see the world. One of her classmates had a cousin who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Charlotte and two of her classmates moved to Washington, D.C., to room together and work for the FBI.
“I don’t know what [the FBI does] now, but back then they recruited small-town people because the background checks were easier to do,” Charlotte said with a laugh. “I was indecisive about college. This opportunity came up and my other two girlfriends were going to go, so I applied too. It was a chance to leave Centerville.”
“She left the day after she graduated from high school,” Larry said. She was ready to get out of town, he recalled, “and I knew I had to go to school.”
About a year after the three young women moved to Washington, D.C., one started college in Maryland and one moved to Georgia. So Charlotte moved back to Centerville for a time, and then to Chicago to work in an office. There she met her first husband, who was in the U.S. Navy.
For the 12 years they were married they moved every four years, including a stint in Greece. They had two sons, Justin Huish, 35, and Jared Huish, 39. When they were stationed in Hawaii, they decided to divorce.
Charlotte’s brother, who was living in Oklahoma City, said she should join him there because there were a lot of jobs available in her field of restaurant management. While there, she met her second husband. In 1996, they moved to Centerville together and owned the Green Circle for seven years. They moved to Missouri but then divorced. Charlotte moved back to Centerville to take care of her father.
For his part, Larry, who said he knew he wanted to be a teacher since fourth grade, went from junior college to the University of Iowa. He had trouble deciding what to study and discovered at Iowa that he really didn’t want to be a biology teacher. So, he transferred to Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University).
“That’s about the time we broke up for good,” Larry said.
“So we thought,” Charlotte added.
Larry married, taught in Eldora for two years and then got drafted.
“I spent most of my time in Korea — 440 days and 16 and a half hours, but who counts?” he said wryly.
When he came back, he started teaching at Tama. He and his wife adopted two children from Korea, Janellen Bradley, 35, and Michael Bradley, 33.