Teen sweethearts forced apart by parents due to race, now engaged after 39 years


  • Penny Umbers and Mark Bethel fell in love when they met in high school during the late 70s.
  • The teen sweethearts were forced apart by their parents who did not approve of their mixed-race relationship.
  • Thirty-nine years later, Penny and Mark found each other again and got their second chance at love.

Penny Umbers was only 16 when she met Mark Bethel, a 17-year-old exchange student from Nassau, Bahamas. They were attending the same private school in Nottingham, England. Penny and Mark’s romance lasted through high school and into college.

Mark returned to the Bahamas after high school graduation but he accepted a scholarship at a London university so he can go back to England. Penny attended a college close by so they could continue their romance.

Penny’s world crumbled when Mark ended their relationship without any explanation. She left college and struggled with her mental health. She even attempted suicide.

Later on, Penny married someone else and was divorced twice. All those times, she never stopped wondering about Mark.

Mark tried to look for Penny out on Facebook after 39 years. He sent her a message and started catching up. Mark said he had also gotten married and divorced. He was able to explain to Penny why he had broken off their relationship all those years ago.

Penny’s heart broke all over again.

Mark told Penny that her father had not approved of their relationship because he is Black and Penny is white. Penny’s father told him, “You’ve had your fun, now move on, boy.”

When Mark didn’t “move on”, Penny’s dad paid Mark a visit at the university and threatened to pull strings to get his scholarship taken away.

“I didn’t have much power,” Mark recalled. “I was 3,000 miles from home in a foreign country. I was totally dependent on my scholarship.”

Mark reluctantly ended their relationship. “I had to make the hardest decision of my life and I had to make it in isolation. It was heartbreaking,” Mark said.

“He couldn’t have survived in London without his scholarship and he would have had to have gone back to the Bahamas with no degree and his parents saying ‘told you so.'” added Penny.

Thirty-nine years later, Mark tracked down Penny and found her on Facebook. After finding each other, they had to wait 18 months before they could finally see each other again due to COVID restrictions.

Finally, the wait was over. Penny flew to Nassau to reunite with Mark.

“When we saw each other for the first time, I believe I shed a tear or two,” Mark said. “I couldn’t believe she was here in my country in my arms.”

The couple picked up right where they left off. Penny is moving to the Bahamas so they can get married! Her father is suffering from Alzheimer’s so there’s no use to confront him about his betrayal all those years ago.

Mark and Penny decided to write a book about their story called “Thirty-Nine Years in the Wilderness.”

“We have had 39 lost years but we are looking forward to a really great future,” Mark said.

We’re happy for you, guys. Love always finds a way.

Source: Inspire More


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